Idioms are a brilliant form of linguistic gibberish. Amusing gibberish but gibberish nonetheless. Infused with meaning that is entirely dependent on context and cultural background, idioms are the plague of foreign language learners. In English we say crazy things like ‘let the cat out of the bag’ and ‘when pigs fly’, leaving speakers of other languages baffled. What cat? Why is it in a bag? How could a pig fly?
All languages have idioms and now it’s the English-speakers’ turn to feel confused. Read on for 11 brilliant idioms from around the world that’ll make you laugh out loud.
Meaning: This bizarre slapstick-comedy scenario is used to refer to somebody who didn’t have to work to get where they are.
Meaning: Strangely unnerving, this idiom means something along the lines of two people knowing each other’s secrets.
Meaning: One for anyone who’s ever been dumped, ditched or jilted, at least you didn’t have water poured over your head. This jaunty Tamil idiom is another way of saying ‘to end a relationship’.
Meaning: Nothing to do with letting a secret out, this idiom means to buy something without inspecting it first and can be found in a similar form in Swedish, Polish and Norwegian, too.
Meaning: This is absolutely adorable. A ‘cats forehead’ in Japan is a tiny space, often used to humbly refer to a small apartment or a small piece of land you may own.
Meaning: In English there are tons of subtle ways to imply that someone isn’t telling the truth but this Latvian idiom for talking nonsense or lying is by far the cutest.
Meaning: A bit like, it’s no use crying over spilled milk, this idiom means that what’s happened cannot be undone. The carrots cannot be uncooked!
Meaning: No, this person doesn’t have a particularly well-lacquered hairdo, this idiom means ‘he’s very stubborn’, or ‘his opinions will not change’.
Meaning: If someone told you that you were pushing something with your belly, especially if it was a shopping trolley or a baby’s pram, you may think they were commenting on your weight but they wouldn’t be, they would be telling you that you’re postponing an important chore.
Meaning: It’s really easy, it’s not complicated, it’s simple. Simple as a bread roll with butter.
Meaning: In Croatian ‘balls of a swan’ is used to refer to a situation or undertaking that is impossible. Wonderful.