No One Lurks to 100
December 13, 2020 9:53 PM   Subscribe

I recently learned that there's a saying in Ethiopia, "No one lives to 100". I would love other sayings that translate easily/directly to English and would still carry not just the literal meaning but also the idea of why one would say it..

Specifically, a word for word translation of a saying that can translate word for word to English and would be used to convey the same thought/emotion
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Upon further research it's entirely possible that he translated the idea but not the actual saying. Question remains, also if anyone knows the actual saying from the original question I wouldn't mind reading it.
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 9:58 PM on December 13, 2020

"If Grandma had whiskers, she would be Grandpa." (Polish)

"Not my circus, not my monkeys." (also Polish; I think people know this one now.)
posted by confluency at 12:04 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here's one I just learned while looking for more:

"The master's grace rides a pied horse."
posted by confluency at 12:13 AM on December 14, 2020

"Get the cow off the ice" (German)
posted by crocomancer at 12:48 AM on December 14, 2020

Some Arabic ones:

"Go tile the ocean."

"A day of honey, a day of onions."

"Not every finger is alike."

"Repetition teaches the donkey."
posted by Corduroy at 12:55 AM on December 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

In Spanish, "it will cost an eye from your face," (costar un ojo de la cara), "to start the house with the roof," (empezar la casa por el tejado), and "there are many generals for few soldiers" (hay muchos generales para tan pocos soldados) might count. I'm not sure I've heard a living person say any but the last. But they're in textbooks.
posted by eotvos at 1:06 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

“en casa de herrero se come con cuchara de palo” (in the house of a smith they eat with wooden spoons)
posted by alchemist at 3:40 AM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

From French:
-- Il pleut des cordes (it's raining ropes); I prefer this one to English "cats and dogs" because wtf domesticated animals dropping from the sky?
-- coup de foudre (lightning strike = love at first sight)
-- boire comme un trou (drink like a hole = drink like a fish)
-- la moutarde qui monte au nez (mustard going up your nose = getting super angry)

I am not sure if this last one is real, but my ex-Belgian-resistance French 1 teacher taught us "Je vais téléphoner à Hitler" for asking to go to the bathroom.
posted by basalganglia at 4:15 AM on December 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also in French “revanons a nos moutons”, or “let’s get back to our sheep” as in, let’s get back on track/refocus on the original topic.
posted by padraigin at 8:09 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

A woman I know who worked in Vietnam said "when the eel lays eggs in the banyan tree" is the Vietnamese equivalent of "when pigs fly."

German friends told me "eating the hair off our heads" is the equivalent of "eating us out of house and home."
posted by FencingGal at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some from Cyprus that translate well:

Does the donkey know about parsley? --Your opinions outside your area of knowledge are useless.

God raises one person, sits another person down. --If you get up, you lose rights to your seat.

Listen much, believe little.

If you have no shame, the whole world belongs to you.

If you have no brains, you have feet. --If you don't think first, you'll get in trouble.

Mountains don't mix with mountains. --similar personalities don't get on.

Instead of talking, it's better to fart.

We didn't have bread and we looked for raddishes. --Seeking luxury when you lack the basics.

You should reach as far as your arm will go.

My tongue has grown hair. --I'm fed up repeating the same things.

Making a camel out of a flea. --Making a mountain out of a molehill.
posted by mkdirusername at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

“Don’t Give Papaya”
"No dar papaya"

It's common in Colombia that essentially means if you leave something out, people will take it in the context of shoplifting.
posted by artificialard at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2020

There's always the lovely Welsh phrase: "paid ȃ chodi pais ar ôl piso" or "Don't lift your petticoats after you've pissed them."
posted by teleri025 at 1:34 PM on December 14, 2020

I love all of these.

German: "Der Weg ist das Ziel" = "The way is the goal." The words are even all cognates, I believe.

But I can't resist a saying about sayings, and one that only works in English, as far as I know: "A new broom may sweep clean, but never trust an old saw."
posted by sy at 6:02 PM on December 14, 2020

Many grandmas, skinny baby.

Много баби, хилаво бебе. (Bulgarian)
posted by hannahelastic at 3:35 AM on December 15, 2020

An English-language literary work famous for its exposition of proverbs from the Igbo language of West Africa is Nigerian Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958). Here are a couple of my favorites:
“If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings.”

“A child can not pay for his mothers milk.”
Came across a couple other colorful ones while looking for those, also from Igbo:
“O̱ku̱ko̱ na-arogoro ite onu, chetekwe mma gburu ya.”
“The chicken frowns at the cooking pot, ignoring the knife that killed it.”
And then a Yoruba one, apparently originally written down in the work of poet Bayo Adebowale:
“Adiyẹto ya’gbẹsi’nu isasun, ile ara rẹlo n bajẹ.”
“The hen that defecates inside the soup pot messes up her own grave.”
posted by XMLicious at 5:20 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mandarin has the vulgar but entertaining “脱了裤子放屁” which translates to “taking off (your) pants to fart” and means doing something that was completely unnecessary. One of the few phrases that I can still remember from college...
posted by en forme de poire at 6:58 AM on December 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Filipino: "Malabo pa sa sabaw ng pusit."
Murkier than squid soup.

When you can't see the possibility or chance of something happening.
posted by pimli at 5:24 PM on December 15, 2020

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