+
upworthy
Culture

Idioms from around the world that become hilarious when translated into English

idioms, language, phrases, phrases around the world, etymology
Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Two donkeys are better than one—'repetition teaches the donkey.'

You probably know what it means to hit the hay, tie the knot or buy a lemon. Maybe you’ve already killed two birds with one stone today, so effortlessly that it was a piece of cake. But to a non-English speaker, using these phrases would probably make you sound crazy … or should I say gone crackers?

That’s the fun thing about idioms. They change depending on the time, place and culture creating them. In other words, they usually sound ridiculous to anyone except those who normally use them.

Looking at turns of phrase in different languages helps us see the world through different eyes. And man does it seem impressive at a party.

Just think, instead of saying “it’s raining cats and dogs,” next time you could incorporate a more Lithuanian take, and say “it’s raining axes.” How metal is that?

It can also be raining old women, barrels, buckets, pipe stems, frogs, female trolls, fire and brimstone … depending on where you’re from.

Some of these idioms from around the world make a lot of sense. Others get so lost in translation, you can’t help but get tickled pink.


Swedish

”Nu ska du få dina fiskar värmda.”

Literal translation: Now your fishes will be warmed.

It's another way of saying someone’s in trouble, or their “goose is cooked.”

The Swedish language is definitely not lacking in the threats department. They also have a saying, “nu har du satt din sista potatis,” which translates to “now you have planted your last potato.”

Imagine hearing Batman say “You’ve planted your last potato, Joker.” Doesn't have quite the intended effect.

Italian

“Avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto.”

Literal translation: To have one’s eyes lined with ham.

Leave it to the Italians to have food-related phrases. You can use this when someone can’t see what’s right in front of them. It can also be used when someone is blinded by love. Sadly, there is no “ham-colored glasses” idiom.

Icelandic

Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti.”

Literal translation: To lay your head in water.

You say this when you “need to sleep on something,” or “put your thinking cap on.” This one is hilarious because I cannot fathom getting any mental clarity from holding my head in the water.

Arabic

"At-Tikraar yu’allem al-Himaar.”

Literal translation: Repetition teaches the donkey.

Practice makes perfect, but it especially does for donkeys. Animal-themed wisdom at its finest.

German

"Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof."

Literal translation: I only understand train station.

It's another way of saying “it’s all Greek to me.”

The history of this one is a bit mysterious. One theory is that it originated from WWI soldiers who had only one thing on their mind after getting discharged: returning home. Meaning, they could only comprehend the train station that would lead them there. Others say it refers to tourists new to Germany who have really only learned the German word for “train station.” Which would indicate that everything else is foreign to them.

And let’s not forget “nicht mein bier, nicht meine sorgen,” translating to “not my beer, not my worries.”

(Fun fact: The term “not my circus, not my monkeys” actually stems from a Polish proverb, not an English saying at all.)

Norwegian

Å snakke rett fra leveren.”

Literal translation: To speak directly from the liver.

When you say something without sugar-coating it, you are speaking directly from the liver. This dates back to a time when the liver was thought to be the magical organ that produced courage. So speaking from the liver is just like speaking from the heart, only down and to the right a little.

Chinese

“Mama huhu.”

Literal translation: Horse horse, tiger tiger.

You can use it to say something is just okay. Not good, not bad, just … meh.

As the story goes, a Chinese painter who, not very good at his craft, created a drawing of an animal that looked sort of like a tiger, and sort of like, you guessed it, a horse. That story actually has a tragic ending that serves as a cautionary tale against carelessness. But nowadays it takes on a lighter connotation.

And like “comme ci, comme ca” in French, “horse horse, tiger tiger” isn’t quite as commonly spoken as non-native speakers would assume.

Language continues to be an ever-evolving and always entertaining way to not only appreciate other cultures, but also note the similarities. Words might change slightly, but ultimately we're all expressing the same things.

"The Carol Burnett Show" had one of the funniest outtakes in TV history.

"The Carol Burnett Show" ran from 1967 to 1978 and has been touted as one of the best television series of all time. The cast and guest stars of the show included comedic greats such as Tim Conway, Betty White, Steve Martin, Vicki Lawrence, Dick Van Dyke, Lyle Waggoner, Harvey Korman and others who went on to have long, successful comedy careers.

One firm rule Carol Burnett had on her show was that the actors stay in character. She felt it was especially important not to break character during the "Family" scenes, in which the characters Ed and Eunice Higgins (a married couple) and Mama (Eunice's mother) would play host to various colorful characters in their home.

"I never wanted to stop and do a retake, because I like our show to be ‘live,’" she wrote in her memoir, as reported by Showbiz Cheat Sheet. "So when the ‘Family’ sketches came along, I was adamant that we never break up in those scenes, because Eunice, Ed, and Mama were, in an odd way, sacred to me. They were real people in real situations, some of which were as sad and pitiful as they were funny, and I didn’t want any of us to break the fourth wall and be out of character.”

It was a noble goal, and one that went right out the window—with Burnett leading the way—in a "Family" sketch during the show's final season that ended with the entire cast rolling with laughter.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

More parents are taking 'teen-ternity leave' from work to support their teenage kids

Parenting through the teen years takes a lot more time and energy than people expect.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Raising kids through adolescence is not for the faint of heart.

When you have a baby, it's expected that you'll take some maternity or paternity leave from work. When you have a teen, it's expected that you'll be in the peak of your career, but some parents are finding the need to take a "teen-ternity leave" from work to support their adolescent kids.

It's a flip from what has become the traditional trajectory for modern parents. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to not have mandated paid parental leave, most parents take at least some time off when a baby is born to recover physically from pregnancy and birth and to settle into life with their tiny new human. Many parents then opt to have one parent stay home full-time during their children's younger years, as full-time childcare is often cost prohibitive, and raising babies and toddlers requires an enormous amount of time, attention and energy.

Parents often return to work when their kids are in school full-time, and many feel a bit of a respite from the relentlessness of parenting as their kids become more independent and capable of doing things on their own. It's not that older kids don't need their parents, but their needs are different. Physical parenting gives way to more complex emotional parenting as kids get older, and for a while, those emotional challenges are somewhat simple.

Then the tween years come along. Then the teens. And for some parents, a realization hits that parenting kids through puberty takes almost as much time, attention and energy, as toddlers do. Only now, those needs are much more complicated and consequential.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gen Xer shares some timeless advice for Gen Z.

Meghan Smith is the owner of Melody Note Vintage store in the eternally hip town of Palm Springs, California, and her old-school Gen X advice has really connected with younger people on TikTok.

In a video posted in December 2022, she shares the advice she wishes that “somebody told me in my twenties” and it has received more than 13 million views. Smith says that she gave the same advice to her partner's two daughters when they reached their twenties.

The video is hashtagged #GenX advice for #GenZ and late #millennials. Sorry older millennials, you’re too old to receive these pearls of wisdom.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

People are debating the merits of a 24-hour daycare and the discussion is eye-opening

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the need for this.

StableDiffusion

Are 24-hour daycares a good idea?

Millions of American parents utilize daycare centers while they work. Since most people work during the day, most daycare center hours fall somewhere between 7:30am and 5:30pm. It's rare to find a daycare that's open after normal working hours.

But one "24-hour" daycare in Houston captured people's attention—and sparked a debate—when a mom posted about it on TikTok.

Adventure Kids Playcare in Houston isn't actually open 24 hours a day but it does offer childcare up to 10:00pm during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. In the video, the mom drops her daughter off and we hear the employee tell her they close at midnight. The mom later says she picked her daughter up at 11:55pm.

Reactions to the video rand the gamut from "24-hour daycares are a brilliant idea for parents who work odd shifts" to "Moms shouldn't be leaving their kids at a daycare late at night just so they can go out," sparking a fascinating and eye-opening discussion.

Keep ReadingShow less

A dad is looking for a little more respect at home.

The title of dad or father is a sweet and respectful way to acknowledge a child's special bond with their male parent. It signifies love and respect and shows appreciation for his role in their life. But the title works both ways. The term dad reminds fathers of the responsibility to guide and protect their kids.

The importance of the unique role dads play in their kids’ lives is why a father named Steve was upset with his wife for repeatedly using his first name when referring to him with their preteen children.

The father vented about the situation and asked if he was wrong in a Reddit post with over 10,000 responses.

“My wife recently started using my first name when referring to me to our preteen kids, as in ‘Steve's gonna pick you up from school tomorrow,’” the father wrote on Reddit’s AITA forum. “I asked her not to when I first heard it, saying I don't really like when you use my first name to the kids. Can you say ‘your dad’ or ‘dad’?”

Keep ReadingShow less

Husband's portrait of wife is so bad that she nearly stops breathing

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what if what your eyes behold is objectively...not good? In what appears to be a creative way to spend quality time together for a married couple, things go hilariously wrong. Ted Slaughter, uploaded a video to his TikTok page of an activity he and his wife did together.

Slaughter's wife seems to be holding the phone so you can clearly see what appears to be a painting of Slaughter, who is sitting at the other end of the table in front of an easel. The text overlay on the video says, "husband and wife paint portraits of each other (gone wrong). But what could possibly be wrong, sure his wife's attempt isn't art gallery ready just yet but it's not bad.

Based on the critiques the man had of his wife's painting, surely his looks much closer to professional level work. Right?...Right?

Keep ReadingShow less