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The Wooden Nickel:  Say What?

The Wooden Nickel: Say What?

June 04, 2021


The English language has some weird sayings.  Upon reflection, they are sometimes non-sensical:


“Sleeps like a baby”  …meaning screams for food every four hours?

“Sweat like a pig”…um, pigs don’t sweat.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…unless it makes you weaker

“Strike while the iron is hot”,

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat”

“When it rains, it pours”


There are a lot of them, and they are all steeped in our history, culture, and shared experiences. I wondered what other odd saying there are out there in the wider world.  Boy, did I find some strange ones:


Here are some where the parallel to English is obvious:

Arabic:             A camel cannot see its own hump.  (The pot calling the kettle black.)


Iceland:           Empty barrels make the most noise.  (All hat, no cattle.)


Egypt:              The son of a goose is a swimmer. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)


France:            I have other cats to whip!  (I have other fish to fry!)


Arabic:             God gives nuts to the man with no teeth.  (The cobbler’s kids have no shoes?)


Holland:           You’re pulling an old cow out of the ditch!  (You’re beating a dead horse!)

Here are some from around the world that I like better than the English version:


Thailand:         You are riding an elephant to catch a grasshopper.  (You’re making a mountain out of a molehill?)


Africa:              When the mouse laughs at the cat, there is a hole nearby (When the cat’s away, the mice will play!)


Italy:                He’s like a dog in a church.  (He’s useless!)


Portugal:         You are feeding sponge cake to a donkey. (You are putting pearls before swine.)


Germany:        Live like a maggot in bacon!  (Dance like nobody’s watching!)


Armenia:         Stop ironing my head!  (You are driving me crazy!)

Mongolia:        May your mustache grow like brushwood.  (Good luck!)



And then there are these, which are awesome even if I don’t completely understand what they mean…


France:            There’s more than one donkey called Martin at the fair.


Brazil:              A dog bitten by a snake is afraid of sausages.


Norway:          The bear and the bear hunter have different opinions


Kenya:             No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.


Sweden:          There’s no cow on the ice!


Poland:            Not my circus, not my monkeys.


Venezuela:      If you see your neighbor’s beard burning, put yours in water.


Kenya:             When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets hurt.


Mexico:           With money, even the dogs will dance.


Russia:             I’m not hanging noodles on your ears.


Turkey:            If the world flooded, it wouldn’t matter to a duck.


Lithuania:        A good ploughman can plough even with a goose.


Japan:              Straighten the horns and you kill the bull.


Serbia:             Pretend to be an Englishman.


Nigeria:            He who is being carried does not realize how far away the town is.


And my all-time favorite:


Africa:              Wealth is like hair in the nose; it hurts to be separated, whether from a little or a lot.


I hope you are separated from neither your wealth nor your nose hair!