Wacky Idioms

Idioms make any language colourful and interesting, if not strange. When we use them in context, however, we don’t think about what they say literally, but non-native speakers hearing them for the first time will often find them mind-boggling or hilarious – or both. For instance…

French: Ca ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard
Literal translation:
That doesn’t break three legs to a duck
That’s nothing to write home about

French: Parler allemand comme une vache espagnole
Literal translation
: To speak German like a Spanish cow
: To speak very poor or little German

French: Filer à l’anglaise
Literal translation
: To sneak away the English way
: To take French leave

The incongruity of idioms can also be a source of inspiration for creativity, as this sculpture, Poule au couteau (the chicken with a knife) by metallic’art, testifies.

French: Avoir l’air d’une poule qui a trouvé un couteau
Literal translation
: To look like a chicken that has found a knife
Meaning: To look puzzled


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