When you learn a new language, it is inevitable not to face terms or phrases that refer to the figurative meaning and known only through the common use. They are called idioms.
Idioms are usually colloquial metaphors which become not only the part of the language but also the part of the culture. Therefore, knowing vocabulary is not enough anymore .The literal meaning of terms or parts of phrases won’t help. You need something more. You need to experience the culture.
Let’s have a look at some idiomatic expressions the meaning of which you will never guess just by taking a language course.
“To kick the bucket”
“Can leopard change its spots?”
“An ass in lion’s skin” This one just sounds funny!
But, wait! These are not the worse! You never learned Russian I guess. For example a Russian idiom says “Заморить червячка“. Literally translating as “to underfeed or starve a worm” actually means “to have a snack”.
Or another Russian idiom “Я съел собаку“(“I have eaten a dog”) just means “I have become experienced in something or I have got skills at something”. This phrase might make sense in Korea or China but in Russia . . . There must be a history behind it!
Some Russian idioms have English idiomatic brothers. A widely used Russian idiom “Я намылил ему шею“ (“I soaped him or his neck”) relates to some English idioms, such as “I hauled him over the coals” or “I gave him a dressing down”.
Another weird Russian idiom the true meaning of which I bet you never guess is “Танцевать от печки“ “to dance from the oven”. What does that mean? It means “to begin from the beginning, to start”.
Hilarious but makes learning Russian and most importantly understanding it a tough challenge. Sometimes they can put you in an awkward situation. Good that people don’t use them too often. But I would recommend you better learn them, just in case! Want to learn more? Then try this quiz about discovering Russian idioms!