Fun with Idioms

I posted this a couple days ago, but I think we had a WordPress hangfire…I don’t think it actually published.  So, I’m re-posting…


Translating idioms into new languages is always fascinating.  Sometimes, the idiom in the new (to you) language is perfectly understandable,  and other times it requires a little (or a lot) of explanation before it makes sense.  Often, but not always, it offers some insight into that language’s culture.  Sometimes, the idiom in the new language makes even more sense.  The process is always interesting, I think.

One familiar example is the idiomatic expression “caught between a rock and a hard place.” The imagery of the idiom expresses that you have a difficult decision to make/are in a difficult position with both outcomes not being pleasant.  Spanish has a similar idiom that goes something along the lines of “between the sword and the wall.”  The imagery is a little different…it feels more like someone (at the other end of that sword) is holding you in that position.  But, the overall idea is still there.  I’m not sure what the Lebanese equivalent of this one is…yet.  But you get the idea.

There is another one that we recently came across in our spoken Arabic class that I thought was pretty revealing.  In English, we have the expression, “walking (or tiptoeing) on eggshells.” We use it to describe trying to not upset someone who may get upset really easily.  The assumption is that eggshells are easily broken, so walk gingerly, i.e. be very careful about what you do and say around that person so you don’t break them.  The comparable idiom we heard in class translates “walking between the mines.” As in landmines.  How’s that for explosive imagery!

posted by: caleb


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