English is great for describing indelicate situations (just try saying wedgie in Italian). But foreign idioms make us feel like smart—even if we haven't quite figured out what they mean yet.
Here are 10 of our favorite, weird idioms from around the world. Can you guess their true meaning?
They Say: In The Wolf's Mouth - In Bocca A Lupo
Response: I Hope It Doesn't Shit - Spero Che Non Crepi
When to say it: Your friend is about to go to interview for their dream job, and you shoot them a text saying "in bocca a lupo," or good luck. If they're feeling dubious, they'd reply "spero che non crepi," or I hope everything goes well.
Translation: To Mark The Boat To Find One's Sword
When to say it: You've made the resolution to save money so you can finally take that trip to Beijing, but you forget to pack lunch for work. By the end of each week, you've spent the money you were going to save on mediocre sandwiches. There you go again! "To mark the boat to find one's sword," or going about solving a problem in a terribly inefficient manner.
Arriver Comme Un Cheveu Sur La Soupe
Translation: Arrive Like A Hair In Soup
When to say it: You come home from a long day at work only to find your roommate going at it on the couch with a guy who's not her boyfriend. You just "arrivas comme un cheveu sur la soupe"—arrived at the most awkward moment.
Finns Det Hjärterum Så Finns Det Stjärterum
Translation: If There's Room In The Heart, There's Room For The Ass.
When to say it: You're at a super crowded event, and they keep letting more people in. If you're in a good spirit you might say "finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum," which would translate to "there's space for everyone here."
Have A Captain Cook
When to say it: You're taking a walk with your best friend, who's annoyed when you pop into a shop. Assure her it'll only be a moment when you tell her you'll just "have a Captain Cook," take a quick look. This supposedly comes from Captain Cook arriving in Australia, liking what he saw and deciding to stick around.
能ある鷹は爪を隠す (Nô Aru Taka Wa Tsume Wo Kakusu)
Translation: The Skillful Hawk Hides Its Talons.
When to say it: Scrolling through Facebook, you see yet another post from your friend who just got a promotion. "LOVING my new job!! So great to have coworkers that get it!!" Annoying. To calm yourself you say, "nô aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu," or talented people don't need to show off.
ปิดทองหลังพระ (Pid Tong Lang Pra)
Translation: Putting A Gold Leaf On the Back Of The Buddha Image
When to say it: You're flipping through The New Yorker when you spot a cartoon your grandma would love, so you cut it out and mail it to her with a handwritten letter. Look at you putting a gold leaf on the back of the Buddha, or doing good just because.
Doun Al Halwa Maash, Wa Doun Al Zawali Farash
Translation: You Don't Need That Particular Carpet Or Rrug To Rest Upon
When to say it: You see a pair of leather boots that you simply must have...except their out of your size. So you tell yourself "Doun Al Halwa maash, wa doun Al zawali farash," I don't need this one item to be happy.
Weten Waar Abraham De Mosterd Haalt
Translation: I Know Where Abraham Gets The Mustard From
What it means: You're on a date when the guy across from you starts mansplaining the potential impact of budget transatlantic flights. You might say, "Weten waar Abraham de mosterd haalt" to point out that you're up to date on the issues.
Chivo Que Rompe Tambor Con Su Pellejo Paga
Translation: A Goat That Breaks The Drum Pays With Its Own Skin
What it means: You stay up until 1am watching Netflix. When you wake up for work the next morning at 6:30am you say to yourself "a goat that breaks the drum pays with its own skin," I'm responsible for my own actions.