Streams

It's Idiomatic

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Christine Ammer, author of more than three dozen reference books, including The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition, gets to the heart of American English idiomatic phrases, including phrases about "the end."

One Last Idiom Challenge: Translate a favorite from another language into English. We'll post our favorites on our website!

 

Guests:

Christine Ammer
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [10]

Roman Scott from Herre, Norway

"Smaken er som baken"
is a Norwegian idiom about personal taste. It translates to "taste is like the butt", inferring that butt cheeks are separate or split. It's pithy, earthy and rhyming-- far more commonly used than English's clunky corresponding phrase, "There's no accounting for taste."

Feb. 27 2013 05:14 PM
Joe Mulligan

Years ago I asked a Chinese calligrapher to translate, "Go jump in the lake" into Mandarin. The closest he could get was, "Go stick your head in a clay pot and try to get it out but you can't."

Feb. 27 2013 02:50 PM
Mariella from Brooklyn, NY

Its hard to think of just one, but "g'hupft wie g'hatscht" might be a favorite. Translated from the viennese dialect into english somewhat to "same difference". Literally meaning "jumped as walked".

Feb. 27 2013 12:46 PM
Alexandre Barbier from Park Slope

In English: (bland) 'Too many cooks spoil the broth'.
En français: (colorful) "À deux sur un âne, ça fait trois bourriques" (two guys riding one donkey make three asses).

Feb. 27 2013 12:17 PM
Corinne from Brooklyn, NY

There's a Russian idiom that in English translates to, “trying to sit on two seats with one bottom." This is applied to people trying to have it both ways.

Feb. 27 2013 12:17 PM

"Gato por Liebre" is a spanish (Spain) idiom. Literally means "a cat for a rabbit". If you skin a cat, and remove the paws and head, you can pass it for a rabbit. So shady butchers would sell skinned cats in place of rabbit to less discerning shoppers. So the expression is a caution to beware of getting something inferior in place of what you think you are purchasing.

Feb. 27 2013 12:15 PM
Sheila Handler from Brooklyn, NY

Hebrew idiom: קרח מכאן וקרח מכאן
meaning "bald from here and bald from there". I think it's from the Talmud and there's a story of a man with two wives, one old and one young. The young one plucked out his grey hairs; the old one plucked out his black hairs and between the two of them -- he ended up bald.

I guess it means, getting the worst from both sides of a situation, a lose-lose situation.

Feb. 27 2013 12:09 PM

Albanian idiom
You have the "Hair of a Pig"
Translation: You have bad luck

Feb. 27 2013 12:04 PM

Favorite Idiom:

El que madruga, come pechuga.

In Spanish it literally means, "He who gets up early, eats chicken breast". Obviously another "early bird catches the worm".

Helen in Montclair, NJ

Feb. 27 2013 12:04 PM
Pretzels from Jersey City, NJ

I've always liked the American Sign Language idiom of "train go, sorry" as another way to say "you missed the boat."

Feb. 27 2013 12:01 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.