Why does one sleep like a log in English whereas in Polish the idiom to describe deep and sound sleep is to sleep like a stone (spać jak kamień) or, even more interestingly, to sleep like a gopher (spać jak suseł), a small furry animal something between a squirrel and a groundhog.
Where do the idioms, the most mysterious parts of a language body come from? Well, the explanation of the gopher might be pretty straightforward for those of you who paid attention in biology classes. The species hibernates from early fall to spring or when the living conditions worsen. Clever! Haven’t you ever wished to be able to nod off when life gets depressing or annoying? But please don’t fall asleep now because having solved the mystery of one idiom we’re still left with many other funny examples. I hereby invite to a short but wonderful journey through the world of idioms:
- Raz na ruski rok.
Once in a Russian year. (Once in a blue moon.)
- Bułka z masłem.
A roll with butter. (A piece of cake.)
- Nudne jak flaki z olejem.
Dull as tripe (or chitterlings) in oil. (Dull as dishwater.)
- Co ma piernik do wiatraka?
What has gingerbread to do with a windmill? (What has that to do with anything?)
- Jasne jak słońce.
Clear as the sun. (Clear as day.)
- Nie ucz ojca dzieci robić.
Don’t teach a father how to „make” children. (Don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.)
- Siedzieć jak na tureckim kazaniu.
To sit like in a Turkish sermon. (To not make head or tail of things, to not understand a thing.)
- Znaleźć się między młotem a kowadłem.
To be caught between a hammer and an anvil. (To be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.)
- Kłamstwo ma krótkie nogi.
A lie has short legs. (Truth will out.)
- Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu.
To drill somebody a hole in a stomach. (To keep on at somebody, to nag somebody.)
- Porywać się z motyką na słońce.
To lunge at the sun with a hoe. (To bite off more than one can chew, to try to do something difficult or impossible.)
- Ryba psuje się od głowy.
The fish goes bad beginning with the head. (Corruption starts at the top.)
- Tonący brzytwy się chwyta.
A drowning man catches a cut-throat razor. (A drowning man clutches at straws.)
- Człowiek strzela, Pan Bóg kule nosi.
Man shoots, God carries the bullets. (Man proposes, God disposes.)
Funnily enough these two languages have a common idiom to wish somebody luck with something: Break a leg! (Połamania nóg!) and with this optimistic conclusion I leave you today and really wish you good luck with learning idioms in foreign languages which is never easy but sometimes really interesting. Ah! And don’t forget that you never say Thank you! When someone wishes you luck in Poland because it brings… bad luck . But that’s already material for a completely different story…