Sayings that do not Translate.

United States
January 25, 2008 4:49pm CST
So my best friend leaves the shop today on her way to work. We had been having a cup of coffee and talking about winter boots. She made the statement that she had more shoes then she could shake a stick at. We said good bye and she left for her afternoon at work. I sat here awhile going over our cheery conversation and I got to thinking about her statement..."I have more shoes then I can shake a stick at" Just what is that statement? What does it mean to shake a stick at something? It's no wonder that English is the hardest language to learn. So how many phrases can you all come up with that when repeated would make a person who English is not native raise their eyebrows at you. What about sh*t eating grin? LMAO what is that?
13 people like this
19 responses
@Sissygrl (10999)
• Canada
25 Jan 08
lol upon googling the question, i found a simialar discussion on another forum... lol. VERY SIMILAR! Raining cats and dogs Three sheets to the wind f**king the dog There is more than one way to skin a cat Head over heels The cold shoulder You're the bee's knees
5 people like this
• United States
25 Jan 08
Oh boy Sis :))) Now I have actually seen it once when I was little it rain down frogs so the dog and cats thing might happen, what is up with the F*** the dog rotflmao. Sounds kinky to me.
7 people like this
• United States
25 Jan 08
Some of these others I think probably has some kind of cultural basis.
5 people like this
@Sissygrl (10999)
• Canada
25 Jan 08
I have seen it rain frogs on the movie magolia.. but never in person.. are you sure you dont belong in my mentally ill discussion lol. WHY was it rainning frogs ?? The dog one is sort of a factory saying, when your just standing around at work.. LOOKING busy but are not really accomplishing anything, that's F**king the dog. There are a lot of dog f**ckers around!!
6 people like this
@Adoniah (7523)
• United States
25 Jan 08
Doesn't every language have strange sayings that would confuse a new speaker? Most of our sayings go so far back that no one has a clue where they came from much less what they really meant when they were first used. They are just silly sayings. I believe that the shake a stick means that you would get too weary to shake it at all of them before you got done. I have no clue about the grin thing. It is a bit bizarre. I can tell you that most of the superstitions that you will hear people talk about actually origionated in China. I have studied these for a long time. Many also are nautical in origion. Just a bit of trivia, if you ever run into that. Shalom~Adoniah
• United States
25 Jan 08
Yes I have read that one with ship high in transit Adoniah.. Kinda what made me ask this question. If you have any wisdom you would like to share with us please do so.
4 people like this
@pyewacket (43961)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Now you got me curious so I did a search....Here's what I found about the expression..."shake a stick at" means ..."The modern use of the phrase always exists as part of the extended and fixed phrase “more ... than you can shake a stick at”, meaning an abundance, plenty. The phrase without the “more than” element is rather older, but not by much...." The whole explanation is here.. http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/339663 Yes we have a lot of weird expressions..like what for instance does it means exactly..."Like water under the bridge" What bridge? What water? Where? I once was being a smartass when someone asked what did the saying mean.."People in glass houses.." And I said..."Shouldn't walk around naked"..LOL
2 people like this
• United States
26 Jan 08
rotflmo Okay explain water under a bridge. That one is a natural occurrence. So now that you have written it out here... I don't get that one either LMAO.
1 person likes this
@GardenGerty (79324)
• Marion, Kansas
26 Jan 08
Water under the bridge is usually flowing, and it has already passed you, and that is why some things are described as being water under the bridge, they are things that are already passed. I think the phrases LMAO, and ROTFLMAO would not lend to translation easily, either. When I took Latin, we talked about some idioms. For instance, instead of "go to bed" the things we translated said "give myself to sleep" How about "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder" Some of the phrases I have seen so far I wouldn.t touch with a ten foot pole.
@pyewacket (43961)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Okay now I did a search for "water under the bridge" .." : : What does "Water under the bridge" mean? : It means that something is in the past and no longer important. : "My sister and I fought when we were children, but that's water under the bridge." : I think the analogy is that water under the bridge is constantly moving toward the sea. That's a little abstract, so you might also imagine dropping a leaf into the water from atop a bridge. By watching the leaf float down river you'd be witnessing the progress of the water. water under the bridge is an idiom cliche used to refer to something that is over and gone and so not worth thinking any more about. It dares from the twentieth century and is still widespread, as "She used to go out with the boy next door but that's all water under the bridge. She married someone else long ago." From _Cliches_ (1996) by Betty Kirkpatrick. ...." http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/13/messages/1464.html Okay what are some other sayings we can think of.....????
2 people like this
@kamran12 (5556)
• Pakistan
26 Jan 08
Hello Angelwhispers, I believe that this discussion will serve as learning experience for me and I'll be following it! When I started reading the contents of your post and reached at that phrase, I said to myself, "Now I'll have to ask her what it means..." but following lines saved my asking:-) I have always learnt something from you, really! especially with regards to english language and vocabulory. And, the last time when I responded to your post, I really didn't know and still don't know what it means "to talk to talking rabbits" And, it's just not english, All the language that I know, have profoundly based phrases that have their own sense and meaning and they don't fall under gramatical or linguistic rules or regulations. They are exceptions of their own kind. In my mother tongue, there are so many exceptions that I, too, think that it will be very difficult for a foreigner to learn or to grasp the real meaning of deeply cultural based old developed phrases. Though I would like to think that my english has gotten a little better but sometimes I just feel lost trying to understand what the other person really mean!:-) Then, there is another little problem and it is about meaning of some common phrases which can be percieved differently even within same language class. they change in their meanings mysteriously, by that I mean no body really knows when actually they changed their meaning. Like "blood is thicker than water" is believed to be originated in opposite meaning to what is understood now! Languages are weird and perhaps that adds to crisp and charm in them, eh?
2 people like this
• United States
26 Jan 08
Hello Kamran my dear friend. With regards to "talk to talking rabbits" I think that what was meant is a world of the absurd, the realm of fantasy. Alice in Wonderland came to my mind when you posted your response to the book game. I was teasing with the comment I made. I am flattered that I have anything to teach anyone at all :)) I believe many of these types of phrases are handed down and depending on where you are at in the world or states ( such as here in the south there are so many different slang phrases and honestly unless you live here you have no clue whats being said) is culturally dependent on its meaning. You are so right about the charm of any given language or phrase. "Blood is thicker then water" is one that takes on colorful meanings in Tennessee where I live.
2 people like this
@kamran12 (5556)
• Pakistan
26 Jan 08
I suspected that its meaning would be among those lines but I have learnt that phrases can be very tricky even if one has mastered a foreign language. I have learnt from many people here and you are surely among the top, and then there is your wisdom, especially in this young age of yours!:-) you must be a very observant person, I believe. It's interesting that you should mention the special color of a phrase in a region. In my own place, sometimes a phrase can have quite a different tone and meaning depending in what you are. There are at least 35 languages in my homeland, that too with slightly different dialects. I can only speak 3 of them and though I can understand 4 or 5 more, I can't speak them at all. More interesting is that I can't even pronounce some special alphabets of some regional languages. I am digressing now! anyway, it's a very interesting thing to learn to communicate in exactly the terms that native or locals understand!
2 people like this
@kamran12 (5556)
• Pakistan
10 Jun 08
Thanks for the best response, Angel! Ah, the learning time:-(
@barehugs (8992)
• Canada
26 Jan 08
"Shake a stick at," is an olde English Sheparding term meaning,- you have so many animals you can't shake a stick at them all. Is English any harder to learn than Mandarin? How does it compare with other Asian languages?
• United States
26 Jan 08
NOW I see why you would shake a stick at something :))) That makes perfect sense. I have heard that learning English is very hard indeed. In fact one of the hardest languages in the world.
1 person likes this
@ESKARENA1 (18304)
26 Jan 08
this is a great answer blessed be
1 person likes this
• Pakistan
29 Jan 08
As I can understand she irritated and she rejected your good offer. “I have many shoes” is a disappointing answer. She seemed to tell that many people expose their love with me, but they all are on my foot. It is my personal imagination and point of view. I have more shoe; means I have more friends. Then I can shake a stick at; means that she does not care all of them. I am not an English speaking but I tried to explain as I followed and understood. Wish you best of luck angel.
• United States
29 Jan 08
Thank you so much for doing so Sheenshaukat. I so appreciate it :))
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Jan 08
How about "I'm so full I feel like a fat tick on a skinny dog???"
• United States
26 Jan 08
Yes JerritsMom, that is a favorite here in the south still.
• United States
26 Jan 08
It's strange that the shake-a-stick-at idiom is not included, but on this site there are definitions for several other sayings: http://www.idiomsite.com I think the "grin" one would be sheepish. I've heard that from time to time. I'm grinning like a hog-tied mule (made that up just now)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Hey joyce, thanks for that link. Its good to see everyone digging for a little bit of information :)) makes it fun.
1 person likes this
@youdontsay (3503)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Idioms in any language make it a challenge for those for whom it is not their first language. I remember when I was taking Spanish and there was the phrase "Don't take a cat for a hare." Stumped me, until we were told that once skinned a cat and a rabbit look very much alike and sometimes are sold as such in markets. It means the same as our expression "Don't buy a pig in a poke." A fun place to explore is http://www.idiomconnection.com/
• United States
26 Jan 08
Youdontsay, I know I could look this up but its more fun for you to come back and tell us ... What is the meaning of exactly don't buy a pig in a poke? Its the poke I am having trouble with.
1 person likes this
• United States
27 Jan 08
A "poke" is a sack. It is a term used in the Appalachians and the southern parts of the U.S. So it means that you shouldn't buy something until you have seen and examined it, not just buy a bag with something in it.
1 person likes this
• United States
27 Jan 08
That one must really be a back woods phrase as I can not recall ever hearing that one. thanks for clearing that up Youdon'tsay :))
1 person likes this
@crazynurse (7511)
• United States
26 Jan 08
I grew up in the south and something that I heard many times but never understood was "that makes my a$$ crave hot buttermilk." This phrase was used when something had made the person saying the phrase mad or if they saw something that irritated them. I have thought and thought about the statement and have never been able to make sense of it! Perhaps someone here could enlighten me?!
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Jan 08
Crazynurse, I tried looking that one up. I remember my Uncle Raymond that farmed a piece of land off the Mississippi saying that one when I was a girl. I remember thinking that was the dirtiest thing I had ever heard anyone say. LMAO i could not find the origin, but examples of it in different words. I think some of those old sayings are just southern bred. Here are a few others I found and have heard my whole life. The one about the ants is still said on occasion here. Hotter than a pail full of red ants Darker than a stack of black cats Colder than a well digger's boot
• United States
26 Jan 08
HaHa, my Grandmother also said the one about the well-digger, however she said, "colder than a well-digger's a$$!" I'm sure to anyone reading this thread my grandmother sounds like a dirty old lady,but she was actually a very fine woman. It's just that this thread happens to expose the only two dirty things I ever heard her say!
1 person likes this
@youdontsay (3503)
• United States
11 Jun 08
Colloquialisms are definitely challenging to foreign speakers - and sometimes to the rest of us. Here's what I found about this one at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sha2.htm : Its recorded history began — at least, so far as the Oxford English Dictionary knows — in the issue of the Lancaster Journal of Pennsylvania dated 5 August 1818: “We have in Lancaster as many Taverns as you can shake a stick at”. Another early example is from Davy Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East of 1835: “This was a temperance house, and there was nothing to treat a friend that was worth shaking a stick at”. A little later, in A Book of Vagaries by James K Paulding of 1868, this appears: “The roistering barbecue fellow swore he was equal to any man you could shake a stick at”. The modern use of the phrase always exists as part of the extended and fixed phrase “more ... than you can shake a stick at”, meaning an abundance, plenty. The phrase without the “more than” element is rather older, but not by much. Shaking a stick at somebody, of course, is a threatening gesture, or at least one of defiance. So to say that you have shaken a stick at somebody is to suggest that person is an opponent, perhaps a worthy one. The sense in the second and third quotations above seem to fit this idea: “nothing worth shaking a stick at” means nothing of value; “equal to any man you could shake a stick at” means that the speaker is equal to any man of consequence. Where it comes from can only be conjecture. One possibility that has been put forward is that it derives from the counting of farm animals, which one might do by pointing one’s stick at each in turn. So having more than one can shake one’s stick at, or tally, would imply a great number. This doesn’t fit the early examples, though, which don’t have any idea of counting about them. Another idea is that it comes from battle, in which one might shake a stick at one’s vanquished enemy. This could possibly have led into the early usages. Following publication of this piece in the World Wide Words newsletter, Suzan Hendren and Sherwin Cogan suggested that it might have come from the Native American practice of counting coup, in which merit was gained by touching a vanquished enemy in battle. In that case, “too many to shake a stick at” might indicate a surplus of fallen enemies, and “not worth shaking a stick at” would equate a person with “an enemy who is so cowardly or worthless that there is no merit to be gained from counting coup on him”, as Sherwin Cogan put it. An intriguing idea, but there’s no evidence that I know of. Let me summarise: nobody knows for sure.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Jun 08
Wow Youdontsay that was a great read... Thank you. I have found that many of our folk saying like this has gotten convoluted over time so that we don't know what they are... Again thank you for that read!
@jutmyne (58)
• United States
29 Jan 08
there are all sorts of those like When I was knee high to a grass hopper or fit to be tied I'll try and think of some more
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jan 08
"knee high to a grass hopper" I dare say that this one would be extremely hard to translate to another language.
@Estina54 (391)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Well, expressions can't be translated word by word, or something very funny might come out. For instance, we still use expressions like: "Pooling somebody''s leg", or "Oh, boy!". These, translated word by word would have some funny sentences coming out.
• United States
26 Jan 08
Estina they are quite funny and quirky in English as they are :))
@IddiKlu (176)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Many sayings go back to things common some time back, and even have lost some of what was said which makes them even more cryptic. Recently ran across the origin of the saying 'here is mud in your eye', when having a drink. Seems that in the 19th century coming up with such saying was a major thing. This one originally was 'Here is mud in your eye while I look over your new girlfriend'. ;-) Makes much more sense that way...
• United States
26 Jan 08
Hi there Iddiklu, Welcome to mylot. You are so right about when phrases are passed down through out the years words often get dropped so we are left with little of the phrase that makes sense. That mud in your eye ,I have always wondered somewhat about. But your right in the true light of the original phrase it makes so much more sense!
@gabs8513 (48821)
• United Kingdom
26 Jan 08
Lol Angel I have not heard that one before either There are a lot of sayings that sometimes make think lol but I will be honest I can not think of one right now I am under the Influence of the Pain Killer lol just waiting to fall asleep Hugs
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Jan 08
Gabs that is quite all right, I hope you had a good night and rested well. If you think of something come back and share with us. Its just always good to see you and hear from you.
• United States
23 Jun 08
OK HERE'S A GOOD ONE Up sh*ts creek without a paddle LMAO
1 person likes this
• India
23 Jun 08
Love to see your great words here,and I feel quiet happy to have a friend like this.I would feel a lot to keep on par with you.
1 person likes this
@maclanis (1377)
• Belgium
11 Jun 08
I disagree with you when you say that English is the hardest language to learn. My first language is Dutch and I started learning French when I was 10 years old, I started learning English when I was 13 and I speak English much more fluently than French. I think English actually is a rather easy language to learn. Every language has its sayings that don't really make sense. :)
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@Estina54 (391)
• United States
26 Jan 08
Funny, indeed. And also figures of seech, to make the statement clearer. If she said: "I have too many shoes" that won't make it clear enough about how she thinks and feels.
1 person likes this