Strange translations

Since everyone knows so many languages…

What’s a sentence or phrase that translates really strangely from its original language to English?

In Portuguese there are many idioms that would not only sound funny, but also loose all the meaning in the translation. As an example:

“Tira o cavalinho da chuva”, which literally translates as: “Take the little horse out of the rain”, but actually is used when someone has an idea or wants to do something and the other person is telling them to forget about it.

There are tons of examples in idioms from several languages as well. If you want, I can continue forever.


One that I’ve heard from an american guy making a very official speech at a french speaking university…
What he wanted to say : “I left so many things behind me when I moved there”
What he said: “J’ai laissé plein de choses dans mon derrière quand je suis déménagé là”
What it meant: “I left a lot of things in my butt when I moved there”


That sounds extremely uncomfortable. O_O

In German it is: “Um den heißen Brei (herum)reden.”
Literally translated to: “Talking around hot porridge.”
So someone is talking, without making his/her listeners understand, what it is actually about. A nice metaphor since, someone having hot food in the mouth will not be able to talk well.
In English there is a corresponding expression: “To beat about/around the bush.” But no one is taking that literal, except for some translators and Google translator. I wish to never see that translation again, so please: “Stop, hitting the bush/tree.”


I might be wrong but I heard that when you don’t look great, in germany, they have this expression that says “You look like you were vomited” but I could be wrong. If it’s true though it’s pretty funny.

Oh in french when someone faints we say that they fell into the apples. I remember as a child being exctremely confused by this while visiting a person at the hospital that “fell into the apples” in her basement. I just couldn’t understand why she had so many apples there hahaha. I only understood that years later, shame on me.


Slang words are often hard - my favorite Korean example is “Makjang” - which has some official dictionary meanings, but in slang t is used to describe a situation in dramas that is almost beyond the realm of possibility in real life - one common example are the convoluted birth secret tropes. To translate such a word would take 2-3 sentences, so sometimes subbers just use the original word.

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It is true, but of course more used in slang.
We would say “zum Kotzen aussehen”, if someone looks bad, not the bad that’s equal ugly.

And if we vent, we will say as welll that it is “zum Kotzen”, as meaning something is sickening.
It does not end there, for a saying like “anything can happen”, we will say “Ich habe schon Pferde (vor der Apotheke) kotzen sehen.” Literally: I saw horses throw up (in front of a pharmacy).

Funny thing is, if we would say that someone looks “hot”, we would say he or she is “zum Anbeißen” (to bite into). Of course this all is slang and far from the slang most youngsters use today.

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I know that in France, babies will be “found” in a cabbage patch, as for Germans they will be brought by a stork.

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In Dutch there are quite a few words/sentences that translate really weird into english to name a few words:

Kippenvel - Chickenskin = Goosebumps
Kerstman - Christmasman = Santa Claus
Vals spelen - False playing = Cheating
Spreekwoord - Speakword = A saying/proverb

These are some sayings or proverbs literally translated from Dutch:

Je liet het in de soep lopen:
You let things walk in the soup = You really let things become a giant mess.

Ik kijk de kat uit de boom:
I look the cat out of the tree = Waiting and seeing how things go.

Trots als een pauw:
Proud as a peacock = Being very proud of something

Een ongeluk zit in een klein hoekje:
An accident sits in a little corner = A small thing can cause an accident

Ik voel het aan mijn water:
I feel it on my water = I have this gut feeling

Je ei kwijt kunnen bij iemand:
Losing/dropping your egg by/with someone = Airing your heart out, talking with someone.

And there are many many more like this.
There’s a funny page on facebook for the Dutchies here called Make That The Cat Wise (also a proverb meaning: trying to get someone to believe something unbelievable and they would say make that the cat wise or try selling that story to someone else I’m not buying it) It’s full of these types of things.

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In french we also say that we could bite into someone when they’re pretty but it’s only used for baby or young childrens.

I don’t understand the horse thing. Do you say this in front of a pharmacy? Or does the sentence imply you saw horses throwing up it in front of a pharmacy?

lol . that’s was so funny .

It’s a dictum.
It actually has the meaning - like - you never know what might happen - or, you got all possibilties but it’s still no use.
It’s something you would say, if you don’t trust another person’s word.
I do not believe you, I have seen so much in life already …
It’s not implying neither that you ever saw horses even near a pharmacy, neither that you would use it near or in a pharmacy. It only displays the distrust in what other peoples said, it’s a verbal reaction.
Something along like Koreans like to say “Drawing lines on a pumpkin, won’t make it a watermelon.”
Hope this helps understanding it better.

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Chicken skin is goosebumps in Korean as well!


“Jia You” in Chinese has almost the same meaning as "do your best, put in your best efforts, you can do it, " just like the Japanese Ganbatte.
However, the literal translation is “add oil”. It’s funny to see some subbers using that as the literal translation. LOL.


I’m not sure if there is a “literal” translation of the word schadenfreude…is there?

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LOL I guess you are referring to German words that survived in the English-speaking World. Schadenfreude is amongst them I guess it was kind of to unique to replace it. In fact here you can see all the examples in English and in German, it’s all the same.

But of course there are many more like: angst, zeitgeist, kindergarten, rucksack
There is even an article at Wikipedia with a list

Anyway it’s fun to see where some words are going. If you watched K-Drama a lot, you might have heard the word “Arbeit” or albeit, it started as a kind of mocking, because you know the Germans like to work and they are taking their Arbeit serious, well most do. But in most of Asia it’s used “only” for a part time job.


I don’t think most people realize that English is actual a Germanic language.

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Omgg every time i hear " albeit " or something like that I think of the German word haha
It’s kinda funny