By Helene Batt and Kate Torgovnick May on TED
It’s a piece of cake.
You can’t put lipstick on a pig.
Why add fuel to the fire?
Idioms are those phrases that mean more than the sum of their words.
As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language.
Which made us wonder: what are their favorite idioms in their own tongue?
Below, we asked translators to share their favorite idioms and how they would translate literally. The results are laugh-out-loud funny.
From German translator Johanna Pichler:
The idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben.
Literal translation: “You have tomatoes on your eyes.”
What it means: “You are not seeing what everyone else can see.
It refers to real objects, though — not abstract meanings.”
The idiom: Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.
Literal translation: “I only understand the train station.”
What it means: “I don’t understand a thing about what that person is saying.’”
The idiom: Die Katze im Sack kaufen.
Literal translation: “To buy a cat in a sack.”
What it means: That a buyer purchased something without inspecting it first.
Other languages this idiom exists in: We hear from translators that this is an idiom in Swedish, Polish, Latvian and Norwegian. In English, the phrase is “buying a pig in poke,” but English speakers do also “let the cat out of the bag,” which means to reveal something that’s supposed to be secret.
From Ligua Franca Team: Please read the full article on TED