10 Brilliant Foreign Language Idioms and What They Really Mean

December 15, 2018 Updated: December 17, 2018
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Every language has its own weird and funny little nuances that give it a unique charm. Here we have 10 idioms and slangs from languages other than English that will give you some entertainment and inspiration.

 

10.Neko no te mo karitai (Japanese)

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Have you ever been in a desperate situation when you could use any bit of help from literally anyone, even from a small kitten that happens to be passing by? I have. The Japanese idiom neko no te mo karitai can be roughly translated as “want to borrow even if it is a cat’s paw”. Cats are hardly known for being helpful, considering how much they love sitting on your desk or lap while you’re trying to do some solid work. That’s probably why this idiom means you’re very busy and you need every help you can get, whoever it is from.

 

9. Shtuyot Bamitz (Hebrew)

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Shtuyot Bamitz literally means “nonsense in juice”. Seriously, what on earth is “nonsense in juice”? Sounds like total nonsense to me! That’s right. The Hebrew idiom for “total nonsense” is a total nonsense itself.

 

8. Encher linguiça (Portuguese)

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Literally meaning “stuff the sausage”, encher linguiça is the Portuguese idiom for giving tons of meaningless information. Just imagine a politician at a press conference filling that tasteless, endless sausage of words instead of directly responding to the question. Nah, definitely not the kind of spicy chunky linguiça that I’d love to eat. A student filling an essay with useless fluff only to make it longer is just another perfect example of encher linguiça.

 

7. Det är ingen ko på isen (Swedish)

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The Swedish idiom det är ingen ko på isen literally means”there’s no cow on the ice”. Guess what? You don’t have to worry about the cow on the ice, because there isn’t one! No wonder why this is the Swedish way to say “there’s no need to worry.”

 

6. Da steppt der Bär (German)

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What would you say when you ask your pal to go to a party with you? How would you convince him/her that the party is simply awesome and you two will have an amazing time for sure? What about “a bear dances there”, like a German would say? This is what the German idiom “Da steppt der Bär” means. It might be traced back to the Medieval era when jesters and trained bears were invited to feudal lords’ banquets to entertain the guests. Anyway, a party with a dancing bear is a good party.

 

5. Tang Bi Dang Che (Chinese)

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What happens when a mantis raises its arms to confront a marching chariot? Poor mantis gets crushed. Simple as that. Literally means “a preying mantis tries to stop a chariot”, the idiom tang bi dang che is used by the Chinese in two ways. It could mean a pathetic idiot picking a fight with someone only to get beaten up badly for no good reason. Think about Don Quixote jousting a windmill in this regard. It could also mean a fearless hero coming forward to challenge the Leviathanic force of evil, for example, an abusive totalitarian government.

 

4. Estar como una cabra (Spanish)

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Ah, goats, the derpy barnyard animals that we all recognize by the derpy look in their eyes. They climb on anything and everything. They parkour from place to place. When they scream out loud you know something goes baaaaaaad. Someone who is estar como una cabra is to be like a goat, in other words, is totally crazy. You can’t make sense out of craziness.

 

3. Kagda rak na gare svisnit (Russian)

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Depending on how you interpret the word rak, this Russian idiom can be translated as “when a lobster or crab whistles on the mountain.” The Russians use this hilariously intriguing phrase for something that is so unlikely to happen and you simply cannot imagine it happening. Well, it’s indeed hard to imagine a crayfish whistling on the top of mountain. Unless you are from Maine, which is hailed for having both gorgeous mountains and gorgeous crayfish.

 

2. Arriver comme un cheveu sur la soupe (French)

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A hair in your soup is probably the last thing you need. It’s icky and absolutely has no good reason to be there. This is why this French idiom which literally means “to arrive like a hair in the soup” is about random, irrelevant remarks that pop up in a conversation. Yep, totally sucks to have a hair in your soup.

 

1. Alsof er een engeltje op je tong piest (Dutch)

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Dutch foodies don’t ever compliment the chef. But when they do, they say Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest, which literally means “as if an angel pees on your tongue.” Despite the obvious connontation, it’s actually a great thing to have a small angel performing some magic feats  your mouth. It means you absolutely love your stamppot and pale lager.