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similar expressions in different languages


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Jan 31, 2009, 12:51am Top

Not too long ago, I discovered that Spanish and Vietnamese speakers have the same saying to describe someone who is being cheated on by their partner or spouse. In Spanish, the saying is "poner los cuernos a" (literally: putting horns on sb) and in Vietnamese, it is "bi. ca('m su*`ng" (literally: having sb put horns on you). I did a little research, and found out that the French also have the same expression "faire porter des cornes." I do not know the origin of the Vietnamese phrase "bi. ca('m su*`ng," however, I guess that it came from the French, during their colonization of Vietnam.

Jan 31, 2009, 4:22am Top

Same goes for German, the (somewhat antiquated) expression "jemandem Hoerner aufsetzen".

Jan 31, 2009, 5:19am Top

A different one: both in Dutch and in Slovene "having a hangover" translates as "having a tomcat". Dutch: "een kater hebben", I don't know the exact wording in Slovene.

Feb 1, 2009, 11:35am Top

Yes, that works in German too: "einen Kater haben".

Feb 1, 2009, 3:38pm Top

#1> same in Italian: "fare le corna".

Feb 19, 2009, 10:30pm Top

Here's the same idea, but from the other way around. When someone is taking a photo, here in the US, we say, "Say cheese" as a way of getting someone to look like he's smiling.

What do photographers in other languages say to their subjects?

Feb 21, 2009, 3:06pm Top

#1> Same in Russian: наставлять рога.
An interesting observation, really.

#6> In Russia we have 'say cheese', too. I mean, we use the English word 'cheese'.
Also, just 'smile!' will do.

Feb 22, 2009, 8:51pm Top

Hmmmm.....is this a universal expression?

?Cómo se dice en español?

Auf deutsch?

Feb 22, 2009, 10:50pm Top

>8 liber_scriptus: You could say "Wie sagt man das?" as a general "How do you say . . . " but a direct translation of "How would you say that in German?" would be more like "Wie sagt man das auf Deutsch?" or "Wie nennt man das?" (Which is "What would you call this?") (

Feb 23, 2009, 5:36pm Top

#6-8 - I stole this from Wikipedia:

In China, the word used is 茄子 (qie2zi), meaning "eggplant."
In Korea, one says "kimchi."
In France and other French-speaking countries, the word "ouistiti," meaning marmoset, is often used.
In most Latin American countries, the phrase used is "Diga 'whiskey'" ("Say 'whiskey'").
In Spain, the usual word is "patata" ("potato").
In Brazil the phrase is "Olha o passarinho" ("Look at the little bird") or "Digam 'X'" ("Say 'X'").
In Denmark, "Sig 'appelsin'", meaning "Say 'orange'" is often used.
In Sweden, "Säg 'omelett'", meaning "Say 'omelette'" is often used.
In Tamil, "Siri" "சிரி" is often used, means - smile or laugh, instead of literal tamil translation for cheese

Feb 24, 2009, 9:54am Top

in Italy : say cheese
usually in this way: say cheeeeeees

Feb 25, 2009, 1:53pm Top

In Croatia "pticica" meaning "birdie".

Feb 27, 2009, 3:56am Top

>8 liber_scriptus:/9 Most common would probably be "Wie/was heisst das auf Deutsch?".

Feb 27, 2009, 9:24am Top

9/13: I think he has asking how people say "cheese" in German and Spanish (as a way to get someone to appear to smile,) not how to say "how do you say...?"

Although I could be mistaken.

Feb 27, 2009, 10:51am Top

The saying "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush" is "a bird in hand is worth 100 flying" in Spanish. :)

Feb 27, 2009, 11:25am Top

In English too you put or set horns on a man by making him a cuckold.

Feb 27, 2009, 11:45am Top

#3> Interesting, I always felt that "mieć kaca" (to have a hangover) sounded much like "mieć kota" (to have a cat)...

#6> The Poles just order you to smile...

Mar 5, 2009, 3:56am Top

"A sparrow in hand is better than a pidgeon on a branch." would be equivalent in Croatia.

Mar 5, 2009, 12:50pm Top

^ The Japanese equivalent, if I recall correctly, is something like "Bread is better than the song of birds."

Mar 6, 2009, 12:49pm Top

In English, or at least American English, we have the expression "To take {something or someone} with a grain of salt." I.e. do not take that person or thing seriously; do not automatically trust everything from that thing or person.

Do any other languages have a similar expression?

Mar 6, 2009, 3:49pm Top

Cum grano salis. But I suspect that that was made up by an Englishman.

Mar 6, 2009, 3:58pm Top

No, it is at least as old as classical Latin.

And yes, it exists in other languages, e.g. French "(prendre) avec un grain de sel", Croatian, "(uzeti) sa zrnom soli" etc.

Mar 24, 2009, 9:50am Top

Take something with a grain of salt would be "ta något med en nypa salt" in Swedish ("en nypa salt" being a pinch of salt) and "iets met een korreltje zout nemen" in Dutch, wich is the same as the English version.

Mar 24, 2009, 7:48pm Top

Danke tausendmal, Nichtglied.
Thank you for the great list on how to get subjects to smile when their picture is being taken. I especially like "diga whiskey." But, patata? Doesn't seem to work.

One of your listings reminds me we also say, "Look at the birdie!" to get someone to look into the camera.

Good job.

Mar 24, 2009, 9:01pm Top

The birdie should be held to one side of and above the camera to keep the subject from looking into the camera.


Mar 30, 2009, 5:22am Top

Well well well, it is all about birds. In Croatia
we say "One swallow does not constitute spring."
It means that early sign of something should not be
considered as a mature phenomenon. Are there any similar
expressions in other languages?

Mar 30, 2009, 5:35am Top

#26: aleksandar2
In English we more often say "One swallow doesn't make a summer", but apparently Aristotle say it a long time ago, so we probably both get it from him.

Edited: Mar 30, 2009, 7:59am Top

> The saying "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush" is "a bird in hand is worth 100 flying" in Spanish. :)

In German: better a sparrow in hand than a dove on the roof.

Mainam na ang pipit na nasa kamay kaysa lawing lumilipad.
Better to have a tiny bird in the hand than a soaring eagle.


Then what? Eat them?

Mar 30, 2009, 6:42pm Top

The German expression 'Carrying owls to Athens' seems to translate as 'Carrying coal to Newcastle'.

Mar 31, 2009, 5:47am Top

It is obvious that old proverbs and sayings appear
in many languages. That was globalization before globalization.

Mar 31, 2009, 6:58pm Top

Yup. Apparently it was Aristophanes who originated "carrying owls to Athens" in his satirical play "The Birds," and this gave rise to other expressions with the same meaning, including "carrying coal to Newcastle."

Mar 31, 2009, 7:42pm Top

"Marcher sur des œufs." (Walking on eggs)
"Walking on eggshells"

Apr 6, 2009, 5:15am Top

In spanish we use: uuummmmmm, It means you're thinking before responding some question

Apr 7, 2009, 2:09pm Top

#26 and #27: We have the same saying in Swedish: "En svala gör ingen sommar" which means "One swallow doesn't make a summer" and has the same meaning as the saying in Croatia.

Apr 7, 2009, 2:24pm Top

#15, #18 and #28

In Swedish: "Bättre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen" meaning "better one bird in the hand than ten birds in the forest"

Apr 18, 2009, 3:23am Top

In Finnish there's the idiom "Monday item" or "Monday copy" meaning a defective item — in allusion to the notion that Monday is when people care the least about doing their job properly and are more likely to turn out defective items. Does something like that exist in other languages?

Apr 18, 2009, 3:45am Top

36, I've never heard of one in English, but I sure do like it!

Apr 18, 2009, 5:47am Top

In German: Montagsstück (Monday piece)

Apr 18, 2009, 7:53am Top

>36 defaults:, 37

I don't know of an English language saying about a "Monday item" but I do recall suggesting that a car that is "a lemon" was built on a Monday.

Apr 19, 2009, 6:09pm Top

>36 defaults:, 37, 38: In Swedish too: måndagsexemplar
and in Dutch, but there it is more specific Monday morning: maandagmorgenexemplaar or maandagmorgenproduct

>39 CEP: why a lemon?

Edited: Apr 19, 2009, 6:16pm Top

Apr 19, 2009, 6:18pm Top

>40 bokmal:

A lemon means something that doesn't perform as expected, and usually refers to cars. I imagine the expression comes from the sour taste of lemons.

The expression also extends to a saying "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." That one refers to getting a string of bad luck and turning it around into a positive thing. For example, your DVD player breaks, then your TV breaks and you can't watch anything you hoped to---so you pick up a book you've been meaning to read, discover how great it is and have a grand time reading it!

Apr 19, 2009, 6:19pm Top

>39 CEP: Kevmalone

Thanks for that site! It's one I know I'll use and enjoy.

Apr 23, 2009, 12:02pm Top

>36 defaults: In Finnish there's the idiom "Monday item" or "Monday copy" meaning a defective item

In Britain we used to refer to 'Friday afternoon' cars - for the same reason!

Jun 3, 2009, 11:56am Top

In the states there is the "Monday morning quarterback" referring to those who second guess a decision or action based on how they would have done it, coming from Monday chatter about the big football game on the previous weekend. So, being a Monday morning quarterback might make you produce Monday copy.

Jan 25, 2011, 10:08am Top

A couple in Mongolian:

Бэлэн мөрийн шүдийг битгий хар.
Gift horse's teeth don't look.
(Don't look a gift horse in the mouth...this one cracked me up the first time someone taught it to me)

Хэлэхэд амар; Хийхэд хэцүү
Upon saying, easy; Upon doing, hard
(Easier said than done)

I'll try and think of more...

Jan 25, 2011, 11:39am Top

#46: In French:

'A cheval donné on ne regarde pas la bride.'

'Plus facile à dire qu'à faire.'

And: does anybody know if this funny English expression is readily translatable in other languages:

Fine words butter no parsnips.

In French, I would say: 'Ce n'est pas avec de belles paroles qu'on fera avancer les choses', but it's much longer and much less funny...

Mar 20, 2011, 6:05am Top

>47 Pepys:: There is an expression pretty much the same in german "das macht den Kohl nicht fett" (literally translated: (this) doesn't butter/fatten the cabbage", but it's more often used as "this (on top of other things) makes no odds (anymore)"..

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