Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Amusing Idiomatic Phrases

There is no doubt that some entries are quite humorous, others represent everyday phrases. In North America we all say that the weather can be hot as hell some days and cold as hell another. A feeble-minded person often sticks his neck out or maybe shoots his mouth off. I should mention that English muffins were not invented in England nor French fries in France. It seems that  North Americans called these fried potato strips French fries because they were popularized by French immigrants. French toast was not invented in France because it was around before France became a country, in fact it dates back to 4th century Imperial Rome where it was called pan dulcis. Before being called French toast the French called it pain à la Romaine. In France is presently know as pain perdu, in Quebec as pain doré. The name French toast first appeared in print in 1871. Let’s have some fun with these Spanish idiomatic phrases: Estar vivo y coleando (To be alive and wagging your tail) which corresponds to “To be alive and kicking”. Hay muchos modos de matar pulgas(There are many ways to kill fleas) which is equivalent to“There is more than one way to skin a cat”. What a splendid Spanish way to be daydreaming, i.e. Estar bailando en Belén (to be dancing in Bethlehem).Obviously one can also dream by being in the clouds or on the moon. This next one gives me a confortable feeling “ to be loaded with cash” but the Spanish one gives me a much warmer feeling “Tener más lana que un borrego”(to have more wool than a lamb). “To throw money down the drain” becomes “Tirar el dinero por la ventana”(  Throw money out of  the window).
All the idiomatic expressions mentioned so far are from the Spanish used in Spain, I like to introduce you to some Latin-American linguistic peculiarities. “To kick the bucket” in Nicaragua one peels the garlic,in El Salvador he ties up his bundle. In Venezuela you’re not A fish out of the water”but a cockroach at a chicken dance.  The next set of idioms really intrigues me  as each country gives a different version. Our  North American expression “To play hooky or to cut the class”in Mexico becomes“Pintar venado (to paint venison), In Venezuela“Hacer la vaca “ (to make the cow), in Perú “Hacer vaquilla(to make the calf),in Argentina & Uruguay “Hacerse la rata”, in Ecuador “Echarse la pera”in Chile “Hacer la chancha (choca)”in Colombia “Capar clase”, in Spain “Hacer novillos”. The following expressions, reported by Suzanne Brock, leave me perplexed and dumbfound : “To play dumb”in Spain “Hacerse el sueco”(to play the Swede), in Bolivia one plays the Italian, a Colombian plays the English man while a Mexican  plays the duck.  Indeed, an idiom is a linguistic expression in which the total is not equal to the sum of its parts.