Friday, March 23, 2012

Idiomatic Idiosyncrasies

I’m fascinated by the eccentricities of idiomatic expressions of the various languages that I write about. As peculiar as these expressions may seem many of our English idioms are equally strange. Who would ever think that dust can be bitten, words can be minced and that kicking the bucket is lethal. Secrets are analogous to cats in bags. Guns can be jumped. I must admit that at times I struggle with them, but once I master them they give me a great joy and satisfaction. Although their origins are not always clear many reflect their home nations by offering us a unique taste of their respective cultures. Moreover they are fun to use as they elicit a giggle or two, thus lightening the mood of a conversation. While foreign expressions can be startling let’s not forget how weird our idioms are.  
 In Spain  the phrase “Tener un cocodrilo en el bolsillo” have a crocodile in the pocket refers to a stingy person. I suppose having a crocodile in the pocket wouldn’t allow you to put your hand there and look for your wallet. A dirty old man becomes “Un viejo verde”a green old man in Spanish. For English speakers “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, while for the Spaniards “La gallina del vicino pone mas huevos que la mia”, i.e. the neighbour’s hen lays more eggs than mine.
 “To make a kill" corresponds to the Spanish “Hacer su agosto”literally  to make your August, because after the harvest farmers would sell their crops and rake in lot of money.
“Cuando las ranas críen pelos” i.e. when  the frogs  grow hair which is equivalent to “When hell freezes over.
English speakers wouldn't want to be in someone else's shoes while the Spaniards stick to skin by saying  "No quisiera estar en su pellejo", i.e.I wouldn't want to be in your skin.
We might sometimes scream when we "Hit the ceiling", while the Spaniards scream at the sky by saying "Poner el grito en el ciel". While we say : "It's neither fish nor fowl"the Spanish idiom talks about liquor made from fermented maize when they say : "No es ni chicha ni limonada"i.e.It's neither corn liquor nor lemonade). Take the English expression "There is room for one more"the  Spanish idiom is more precise and expressive "Donde comen seis, comen siete" (where six can eat, seven can eat).
:To pull one’s leg” corresponds to “Tomar el pelo”(To take someone by the hair)
While foreign expressions can be startling let’s not forget how weird our idioms are.  
How did these phrases find their way into these languages? Why do we use such strange or poetic images to convey simple concepts ?

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