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Spanish Animal Idioms

Let’s delve into the fascinating realm of idiomatic expressions once again with a collection of Spanish animal idioms. ¡Vamos allá!

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

If someone behaves in a peculiar or crazy manner, it’s safe to say that he or she “está como una cabra”. This idiom literally means “to be like a goat” and originated among farmers. If you have ever observed goats derping around, it’s easy to see how aloof they are.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, idioms, phraseology, expresiones idiomáticas, fraseología, linguistics

The expression “estar como pez en el agua” literally means “to be like fish in the water” and is used to indicate that people are in their element. Think about it: fish feel best in their natural watery habitats.

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“Estar como un pulpo en un garaje”, literally “to be like an octopus in a garage”, means being lost or feeling out of place. It’s the counterpart of “estar como pez en el agua”. Think about it, an octopus in a garage: must be pretty confusing to be surrounded by all kinds of weirdly shaped tools and discarded junk.

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The idiom “tener pájaros en la cabeza”, literally “to have birds in your head”, doesn’t mean that these flying creatures built a nest inside your skull. It refers to someone who is a bit naive and has rather unrealistic ideas, expectations or goals. Although this expression has mildly negative connotations, daydreamers are happy to embrace their birds in the head, and coined the saying “Prefiero tener pájaros en la cabeza que vivir en las jaulas de vuestra mente” 1.

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“Ser un pez gordo”, literally “to be one fat fish”, means being the boss or the person in charge who makes the decisions and holds the power. Other interlinguistic equivalents of “the fat fish” are “das hohe Tier” (the big animal) in German or “Важная птица” (the important bird) in Russian. You don’t want to mess around with the idiomatic fauna!

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The idiom “trabajar como un burro”, literally “to work like a donkey”, means to work extremely hard. The hardworking relative in English would be the horse or the dog.

Eso es todo, amigos. If you enjoyed this post, check out these funny Spanish food idioms.

Spanish Food Idioms

In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge contrastive phraseology nerd 2. So today I’m bringing you a collection of 10 Spanish food idioms. ¡Que aproveche! 2

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A problem or task “es pan comido” when it can be easily solved. Whereas in English something can be “a piece of cake”, Spanish speakers describe it as “eaten bread”. Why? Because bread is one of the most basic food items worldwide. It’s easy to make and even easier to consume, since you don’t even need cutlery or special abilities – as opposed to other goods that might require some skills and patience, such as seafood.

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When you “give someone pumpkins”, you are not offering them a squash snack but turning them down. Legend has it that pumpkins were considered an anti-aphrodisiac in Ancient Greece, and they were administered to folks in order to reduce their libido. Likewise, pumpkin seeds were recommended in the Middle Ages to ward off lascivious thoughts during prayer. The idiom “dar calabazas a alguien” made its way into Spanish in the context of courtship, and nowadays it’s used to reject someone’s amorous advances.

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The idiom “ser un chorizo” literally translates as “to be a spicy pork sausage”, and it describes people who steal from others. Contrary to popular belief, the etymological origin of this expression is not food related. In caló 3, the verb “chorar” (to steal) gave way to the noun “chori” (thief), and so did the idiom that Spanish speakers currently use – mostly to refer to their politicians.

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Yummy as it may be, this caramel custard dessert is shaky and wobbly as hell. If someone is trembling, shivering or extremely nervous, you can fairly say they “are like a flan”.

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The idiom “to be the (lemony) pear” emphasizes someone’s or something’s extreme coolness. But are pears inherently awesome? Not really! In order to unravel the origin of this expression, we shall travel back to 17th century Constantinople, specifically to Péra 4. Back in the day, this bustling district enchanted European merchants and visitors with its marketplace: spices, silks, perfumes, exotic products and handmade goods. Péra was definitely the pinnacle of awesomeness!

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Are you an attractive, good-looking person? Then it’s safe to say that “you are like a cheese”. Yummy and nice to relish in. Need I say more? Fun fact: what do cheese (English), Käse (German), kaas (Dutch) and fromage (French), formaggio (Italian), formatge (Catalan) have in common? The answer is caseus formaticum, which is Latin for “shaped cheese”. Mind-blown!

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“Having bad milk” doesn’t exactly mean that your dairy went bad, but rather, that you are a sour, grumpy person. It originated in the Middle Ages when wealthy ladies resorted to wet nurses who would feed their newborns. Wet nurses were picked meticulously, for it was thought that any psychological imbalance or poor cognitive skills could be passed on to the newborn through their “bad” milk. Ah, what a time to be alive!

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Whereas some people are dumb as rocks, Spanish speakers get “to be a melon”. The origin of this idiom is unclear. One theory suggests that it was brewed in a context of political disputes in Puerto Rico, when the Popular Democratic Party started referring to their rivals as “melons”, due to the emblematic color of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. If someone calls you “melón”, I suggest you look for new friends!

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What was first, the coconut or the head? The idioms “comerse el coco” (lit. to eat your coconut) and “comerse la cabeza” (lit. to eat your head 5) mean to overthink. Besides the fruit name, coco is colloquial for head, and both items are understood as containers where thoughts roam wild.

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Blushing is part of our fight or flight response. When we are embarrassed, adrenaline speeds up our heart rate and dilates our blood vessels. So we turn visibly red, or if you speak Spanish, you “become (like) a tomato”. Because come on, is there anything redder than this fruit?

Eso es todo, amigos. If you enjoyed this post, check out these hilarious German idioms.

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Hilarious German Idioms

If you have been learning a foreign language for a while, the following scenario might sound strikingly familiar: you are reading a book or carrying out a conversation, and suddenly a bizarre expression comes up. You know all the words, but their combination doesn’t make any sense.

Well, the good news is that your language skills are solid enough to understand literal meanings. The even better news is that you are ready to move to the next level: the fascinating realm of idioms! 6

Idioms are established word combinations that have a figurative meaning 2. They are vastly used in everyday conversation and rely on language devices 3 to describe something more vividly and paint a more colorful, striking picture. And let’s be honest: some idioms are pretty amusing. Which is why today you are in for a treat: a cartoonized compilation of hilarious German idioms.

Here we go, hold on to your seats!Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, idioms, German, lustige RedwendungenAre you going through a rough patch or a harsh situation? In German, you can use the very visual idiom “I’m sitting in the ink”. Sounds messy, doesn’t it?

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, idioms, German, Redewendungen, WurstPretty much like Germany cuisine, the repertoire of German idioms is fairly smeared in sausages. “That is sausage to me” conveys in a very colloquial manner that you couldn’t care less about something. Legend has it that this expression originated among butchers, who – uncertain of what to do with slaughtered animal scraps – decided to stuff the low quality leftovers into sausages. This practice gave way to the idiom, which is used nowadays to express that someone doesn’t really know what to do or just doesn’t care.

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Back in the day of ancient warfare, fearful soldiers took advantage of the ubiquitous swirling dust to flee the battlefield without being noticed. Hence, the idiom “I make myself out of (the) dust” comes in handy when you run away from an unpleasant situation or leave in a hurry without notifying anyone.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up every day without worries, and indulge in daydreaming and life’s little pleasures? Unfortunately, “Life is no sugar-licking”, meaning that life ain’t easy. This idiom is similar to “das Leben ist kein Ponyhof” (lit. Life is not a pony farm). Schade!

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If your German friends refer to a place as “What is this for a juice shop?”, they are not exactly talking about a cute lemonade stand. Quite the contrary, for a Saftladen hints at crummy establishment or dinky joint. That lemonade doesn’t sound as enticing anymore, does it?

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We all have that one irritating acquaintance who constantly asks for favors or that insufferable boss who keeps piling more tasks on our shoulders. But enough is enough! “The devil I will do” is the German equivalent of “I’ll be damned if I will!” or “when hell freezes over”.

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If you find something nonsensical or rubbish, feel free to describe it as “such a cheese”. This idiom is used throughout Germany, but its etymology is unclear. Some suggest that the particular – somewhat stinky – smell of certain cheeses may have given this dairy product the idiomatic connotation that it has today.

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The idiom “(there) you look stupid out of the laundry” implies that someone has a puzzled, surprised or downright dumb facial expression. This idiom seems to date back to the Second World War, during which soldiers who weren’t so bright were tasked with collecting dirty laundry. If you picture the soldiers strolling through large piles of dirty clothes, with their befuddled faces popping out of the mountains of laundry, it’s easy to understand why this idiom is still in vogue today.

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Whenever someone drives you up the wall or exasperates you big time, let them know by saying “you bring me to the palm tree”. Imagine what a great deal of anger and distress someone must feel in order to climb atop a palm tree!

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Last but not least! This is one of the first German idioms that I learnt, and it still makes me chuckle. In German, you are not insane, you just “don’t have all your cups in the cupboard”. There’s no consensus on how this goofy expression originated, but popular belief connects the word Tasse to the Yiddish toshia, which alludes to common sense. Whereas English speakers lose their marbles, crazy Germans are short of cups. Simply genius!

All good things must come to and end, but if you are interested in this topic, let me know and I’ll put together a second batch of idiomatic illustrations. What are your favorite idioms? Do you know hilarious expressions in other languages? Leave a comment and share with your friends.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Raw Animal Phraseology

If something isn’t good to begin with, there’s not much one can do to improve it.

Literal translations – Dutch: A monkey may wear a gold ring, but it stays an ugly thing. | Spanish: The money may dress in silk, but it stays a monkey. | German: One can’t cut a diamond out of a pebble. | Irish: Dress a goat in silk, but it still remains a goat. | Romanian: One can’t make a whip out of shit. | Russian: One can’t make candy out of shit. | Finnish: Many cakes may look beautiful on the outside, but be shitty in the inside. | French: One cannot make a race-horse from a donkey. | Turkish: You may put a golden packsaddle on a donkey, but the donkey is always a donkey.
 

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