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Your Favorite Idioms, Please?
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2007/11/22
10:13am
San Diego, CA
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So, I celebrated my #$*#)%*()@$=+th birthday recently (don’t ask), and we had a blast. A Spanish speaker noted that we were having such a good time that “tiramos la casa por la ventana” — literally, “we’re throwing the house out the window.”

I was reminded of how much I love that picturesque idiom. How about the rest of you? Have a favorite like that?

2007/11/23
6:04am
San Diego, California
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I don’t know that this counts as an idiom, but I liked this phrase that came up in the English-language press coverage of the earthquake in Chile:

Locals have taken to calling it a ‘hypocrite quake,’ saying many houses have an intact front but are badly damaged inside.

I find it used in 2005 in Chilean Spanish:

Ustedes han visto que es un terremoto hipócrita porque no se ve, ustedes han podido ver una casa muy bien por fuera y por dentro no queda prácticamente nada.

2007/11/23
6:10am
San Diego, California
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Also, this one, supposedly Chinese: “killing the chicken to scare the monkey” means teaching a person a lesson by punishing someone else or making an example of one offender so everyone else will stop their nefarious deeds.

2007/11/23
8:45am
wordpecker
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One of my favorite French idioms is “j’ai mal aux cheveux” which means “I have a hangover.” The literal translation is “I have bad hair” but it really means “my hair hurts.”

Another idiom for having a hangover is “j’ai une geule de bois” which literally translates to “I have a wooden mouth.”

Not that I’d know anything about having hangovers, mind you.

2007/11/25
10:42am
Joni
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One that my parents always used made me feel crazy when I grew up because no one else had ever heard it before. “Where God left his shoes.” It means out in a far off place or remote location. I know I didn’t make this up, but please tell me my family isn’t the only one to toss around this phrase.

2007/11/25
11:58am
San Diego, CA
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>>>>> a ‘hypocrite quake,’ saying many houses have an intact front but are badly damaged inside.< <<<

Ooo, Grant, I like that. Reminds me of the possible origin of the cooking pot known as a marmite.

2007/11/25
11:59am
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>>>>One of my favorite French idioms is “j’ai mal aux cheveux” which means “I have a hangover.” The literal translation is “I have bad hair” but it really means “my hair hurts.”

Love that, Wordpecker! Some of us have known to have both (the bad hair and the hurting hair). Thanks for tossing that one in!

2007/11/25
12:04pm
San Diego, CA
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>>>>One that my parents always used made me feel crazy when I grew up because no one else had ever heard it before. “Where God left his shoes.” It means out in a far off place or remote location. I know I didn’t make this up, but please tell me my family isn’t the only one to toss around this phrase.< <<<

Wow, Joni, I never heard this, but I like it a lot. You don’t mind if I borrow it? :-)

2007/11/25
2:01pm
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I was just going through my citation database and came across this British idiom: if somebody laughs a lot or loudly at something, you can say they “laughed like a drain.”

2007/11/25
4:23pm
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I have read “laughed like a drain,” although at the time, I chalked it up to the writer having a way with words. Now I find out that it’s an idiom!

2007/11/26
8:05pm
wordpecker
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Here’s another one of my faves. The Hebrew idiom for a Jewish calendar year with 13 months is called a “Shanah Me’uberet” (pronounced shah-NAH meh-oo-BEH-reht), literally: a pregnant year.

2007/11/28
4:17pm
dhenderson
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Twenty years ago, I heard the dean of my graduate school say something like, “We’ve done it that way since Christ was a corporal.” In these hypersensitive times this would probably be a risky idiom to repeat, but it’s always been one of my favorites.

Dan Henderson
Sunnyvale, CA

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.
2007/11/30
9:31am
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Here’s one from the Guardian’s sportblog, although I don’t think I’ve read it or heard it in French:

The French have an expression which roughly translates into the English injunction not to kick a man when he is down: “no point shooting the ambulance.”

2007/11/30
6:23pm
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Love these. And Dan, the variant I’ve heard of yours is “since Christ left Chicago.”

2007/11/30
9:33pm
Travis English
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One of my favorites just made the news last week.

When the markets have a short lift in the midst of a downward trend, economists call it a “dead cat bounce.”

Isn’t that just wonderfully grotesque?

2007/12/01
10:03am
kulturvultur
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I’ve found the phrase “in the weeds” useful to describe situations where one is behind, lost or confused in any project. A good example would be when you are baking a cake and you pour the liquid into a spring form pan without a sheet underneath or any other liner and it starts to leak out all over your oven.

2007/12/01
1:27pm
Linda Eskin
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Naturally as soon as I found this thread my mind went blank. :-) I’ve managed to think of a few of my favorites:

Someone has been around “since before dirt,” or is “older than dirt.”

When someone gets a real dressing down: “He sure told him how the cow ate the cabbage.”

“Common as cat $#*&.” I suppose this works equally will in the common=plentiful and common=uncultured senses. I believe the latter is the intended usage.

I originally overheard one of my favorites in a restaurant in Ramona (small, rural town near San Diego, for those from elsewhere). Two older gentlemen in the next booth were talking. One mentioned his wife was trying to keep him healthy by feeding him oat bran muffins. He said “they had me f*rting like a horse going downhill.”

Similarly, I was in a meeting where people were getting riled up at brainstorming ideas for a project we were thinking of taking on. They were tossing out some pretty grand schemes that would probably take more time and people than we had. One of the women there tried to pull them back to reality with “now hold that f*artin’ mare!”

(You might really need to be a horseperson to truly appreciate those last two.)

Oooh! One more: “All hat, no cattle.”

2007/12/02
4:36pm
dilettante
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kulturvultur said:

I’ve found the phrase “in the weeds” useful to describe situations where one is behind, lost or confused in any project. A good example would be when you are baking a cake and you pour the liquid into a spring form pan without a sheet underneath or any other liner and it starts to leak out all over your oven.


I’ve heard it used (and by now, overused) to describe getting too far down into the details of a situation.

2007/12/02
6:21pm
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Another way of saying you are “in the weeds” is to say you’re weeded.

2007/12/04
10:16am
dhenderson
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martha said:

…the variant I’ve heard of yours is “since Christ left Chicago.”


Really? I’d only heard that in the ZZ Top song Jesus Just Left Chicago. I had no idea it was an idiom in anything like common usage.

Dan

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.
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