How do you catch my eye in your language?
August 27, 2010 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Calling non-English speakers: what are the equivalent phrases in other languages for "catching someone's eye" or "making eye contact"?

I was just musing on the really quite mysterious phenomenon of making eye contact: the instantaneous mutual realisation of two people that they are looking at each other. Both parties know the other party knows they are looking at them. It works with a 3 month old baby (can't fool them by looking in their general direction, but reading a book), it works between humans and animals.

So I was wondering about the many expressions that must exist for this phenomenon in various languages. To "catch someone's eye" is whimsical enough, when you think of it. In the only other language I know, Afrikaans, it's unfortunately the same ("vang iemand se oog"), but I'm pretty sure completely different expressions must exist in other languages. Or perhaps this expression is universal: that would be interesting in itself.

I'm particularly interested in the literal English meaning of figurative expressions.
posted by snarfois to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In German it's a little different: ins Auge fallen, lit. "to fall into the eye." There are some variations according to the desired connotation in which the verb is replaced with verbs meaning 'to jump' or 'to stab.' Compare 'eye catching' to 'eye stabbing'; both refer to something that gets your attention but the connotations are very different.

A fun German idiom involving eyes: unter vier Augen, lit. "among four eyes" but meaning "to be alone with someone else."
posted by jedicus at 2:16 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh and to answer your other question. "To make eye contact" is Augenkontakt herstellen, lit. "to make eye contact." A synonym is Blickkontakt, lit. "gaze contact." So basically just like English.
posted by jedicus at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2010

"ins Auge fallen" means that something is evident or conspicuous, so that's different.

"Jemanden ins Auge fassen", would mean to actively look at somebody, but not necessarily into her/his eyes.

German for eye contact would be "Augenkontakt" or "Blickkontakt", same as in Dutch "oogcontact" and Swedish "ögonkontakt".

Catching someone's eye, in German, is "jemandes Blick fangen". ("Blick" means glance).
posted by Namlit at 2:34 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Japanese: 視線を捕らえる。 It's the same.
posted by misozaki at 3:36 PM on August 27, 2010


Catching a (male) person's eye: "לתפוס את עינו של...", litfos et eino shel... (lit., "to catch the eye of...")
Catching a (female) person's eye: "לתפוס את עינה שלה...", litfos et eina shel... (same)
To make eye contact: "ליצור קשר עין", litzor kesher ayin (same as in English)

No surprises here, I'm afraid.
posted by iati at 3:55 PM on August 27, 2010

I think the closest there is to "catch someone's eye" in Portuguese is "chamar a atenção", which is literally "call the attention".

Make eye contact: "fazer contato visual" (make visual contact).
posted by falameufilho at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2010

In Spanish, making eye contact is commonly expressed as "mirarse a los ojos". "Se miraron a los ojos" would be a way of saying clearly that it was mutual and simultaneous. "Catching someone's eye" in the one-way sense is commonly said as "le atrajo la mirada", "atraer la mirada". I've also seen it as "atrapar la mirada" but this sounds suspiciously like the literal translation from English so I don't know if it's just a coincidence or contamination from bad translations in movies and such.
posted by Iosephus at 5:28 PM on August 27, 2010

Italian: "cartch someone's eye" is "attirare la sua attenzione".
posted by aqsakal at 1:46 AM on August 28, 2010

> A fun German idiom involving eyes: unter vier Augen, lit. "among four eyes" but meaning "to be alone with someone else."

We also say this in Hebrew: "בארבע עיניים", be'arba einayim. Usually this refers to a conversation, i.e., "שיחה בארבע עיניים" - a conversation in four eyes.
posted by iati at 2:07 AM on August 28, 2010

Conversational Japanese is "me ni tsukeru" 目につける。 Misozaki's phrase is very formal.
posted by vincele at 6:33 AM on August 28, 2010

Colloquial Mandarin for "making eye contact" - 對上眼 (to match eyes)
There is a definite romantic/sexual connotation in the phrase.
posted by monocot at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2010

There are quite a few phrases here without literal translations to English, so don't really mean much to me. But so far it seems that most languages use very similar terms.
posted by snarfois at 4:15 PM on August 28, 2010

You could stick the expressions in online dictionaries and see what you get. For languages vastly different from English or Afrikaans, it's hard to explain figurative expressions in English, I'd imagine. For instance, the word "ni" in Japanese is a part of speech that doesn't even exist in Indo-European and most other languages.

I'll give it a shot though. "Me ni tsukeru" means something like "attach to an eye".
posted by vincele at 6:42 PM on August 28, 2010

« Older How to text in Japanese?   |   Where to buy and sell used clothing in Manhattan... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.