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15 Lesser Known Idioms From Across the Globe

Edited By: Violet Tar

 We all know that many idioms in foreign languages should not be translated too literally. However, many idioms used all across the world are strange no matter how you read them. But just because the words may seem a little odd, doesn’t mean they aren’t hilariously applicable to numerous day-to-day situations. You can change the whole conversation with these 15 strange and fascinating idioms from cultures all over the world.  


1. God bless you and may your mustache grow like brushwood

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Mongolian phrase: бурхан оршоо бутын чинээ сахал урга (burkhan orshoo butyn chinee sakhal urga) 

When someone sneezes, you don’t just say “bless you”, you pass the blessings on to their mustache!!

 

2. Emit smoke from seven orifices

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Chinese Phrase: 七窍生烟 (qīqiàoshēngyān) 

When someone gets mad, we would normally say, “he’s got smoke coming out of his ears”. The Chinese take the expression to the next level. 

 

3. Everyone sees noon at his door

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French Phrase: Chacun voit midi à sa porte

We have a tendency to view any situation from our perspective, despite objectivity telling us to acknowledge otherwise. It may be noon where you are, but across the oceans, the sun may not have risen yet.


4. Enough to cobble dogs with 

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This idiom alludes to the work of cobblers, who traditionally repair shoes. This idiom speaks of anything in excess, the logic being that if a cobbler has enough leather to cobble an entire animal together, he must have a whole lot of leather. 

 

5. To push something with your belly

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Portuguese phrase: Empurrar com a barriga

Quite simply, the thing you’re pushing with your belly is time, as this idiom essentially means to procrastinate. 

 

6. One afternoon in your next reincarnation

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Thai phrase:  ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ (Chāti h̄n̂ā txn b̀āy «)

This phrase is a way of expressing disbelief at the likelihood of an event occurring. 

“I’m gonna be on TV someday.”
“Yeah. Sure. On one afternoon in your next reincarnation. Never going to happen!

 

7. There’s no cow on the ice

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Swedish phrase: Det är ingen ko på isen

This is just a fun, albeit odd, way of saying, there’s no need to worry. Another version of this idiom is “Det är ingen fara på taket”, which directly translates to “there is no danger on the roof”, similarly meant to be an assurance. 

 

8. Don’t be a nose ointment! 

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In British slang, a ‘nose ointment’, is someone who is always in your business, and commonly seen as that nosy neighbor with their noses pressed up against the glass, looking into your life so they can whisper to others later. 


9. The thief has a burning hat

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Russian phrase : На воре и шапка горит (Na vora i shlyapa gorit) 

Here’s a quick way to refer to that demon with the heart of an angel, the thief whose own conscience betrays him. Like a burning hat, it makes his misdeeds easily discovered.  

 

10. The pussy cat will come to the tiny door

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Croation Phrase: Doće maca na vratanca

It’s a rather unique way of basically saying “what goes around comes around”, or as it is called in some cultures, karma. Except in this case, karma is a cat. 


11. Separate the sheep from the goats

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A phrase originating from the Bible, separating the sheep from the goats in its current usage means the act of analyzing a group and determining the various qualities of each person to categorize them accordingly.     

 

12. Did you fall from a Christmas tree?

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Polish phrase: Z choinki się urwałaś?

The Polish equivalent of “Do you live under a rock?”. It essentially takes a dig at the other person’s lack of information and knowledge on any given topic of discussion. 
 

13. One shouldn’t push grandma in the nettles!

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French Phrase: Il (ne) faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties

Be weary of embellishments in your stories. If you exaggerate far beyond necessity, you may be accused of pushing grandma into the bushes.  


14. On the chunder bus

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Here’s another funny phrase we can borrow from the British. This English expression means “about to vomit”. 

“Uh oh, watch out. Looks like he’s on the chunder bus”. 

 

15. To slide in on a shrimp sandwich 

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Swedish Phrase: Att glida in på en räkmacka

This idiom refers to people who move up in the ranks without putting in the work required to get there and perform unsatisfactorily despite holding a high rank. 

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