Communication Problems:
Idioms List

This short film features 70 idioms from 28 different languages and dialects translated verbatim into American English. Here they are, with their approximate American English equivalents (in order of appearance):

  1. A strike of lightning – un coup de foudre (French): Love at first sight
  2. The age of the turkey – la edad del pavo (Spanish): Awkward teen years
  3. Laughing my laughing gear ‘round my lunch (Australian): Eating my lunch
  4. To squeeze one’s thumbs – Um die Daumen zu drücken (German): To cross one’s fingers
  5. To have a pig – Schwein haben (German): To have a stroke of good luck
  6. Sara, Mara, and the Bad Encounter – Η Σάρα, η Μάρα και το κακό συναπάντημα (Greek): Every Tom, Dick, and Harry
  7. To get hit by a rake – Se prendre un râteau (French): To get rejected
  8. The hen saw the snake’s feet and the snake saw the hen’s boobs – ไก่เห็นตีนงู งูเห็นนมไก่ (Thai): To share your deepest secrets
  9. To live on love and fresh water – vivre d’amour et d’eau fraiche (French): To be in love and have nothing else matter
  10. Eyedrops from upstairs – 二階から目薬 (Japanese): Hard to control
  11. It walks in the soup – Het loopt in de soep (Dutch): Everything’s gone wrong
  12. To look at each other with earthenware dogs – Se regarder en chiens de faïence (French): To look at each other with distrustful coldness
  13. To chew someone’s ear off – Jemandem ein Ohr abkauen (German): To talk someone’s ear off
  14. I say that, I say nothing – Je dis ça, je dis rien (French): Just saying
  15. A dog’s breakfast (Australian): A total mess
  16. To pour water over each other’s heads – தலை முழுகுதல் (Tamil): To end things/break up
  17. To still be riding the goat – Mónésó’táhoenôtse kosa? (Cheyenne): To separate
  18. To flip the omelet/tortilla – Darle la vuelta a la tortilla (Spanish): To turn things around
  19. Peaches, chestnuts, 3 years; persimmons, 8 years – 桃栗三年柿八年 (Japanese): These things take time
  20. To slide in on a shrimp sandwich – Att glida in på en räkmacka (Swedish): An easy win without putting in the work
  21. A fair suck of the bottle (Australian): Fair
  22. Pedaling in sauerkraut – pédaler dans la choucroute (French): To spin one’s wheels
  23. 50 steps are similar to 100 – 오십보 백보 (Korean): Same difference
  24. To hit the frog and toad (Australian): To leave
  25. A dog with feces scolds a dog with husks of grain – 똥 묻은 개가 겨 묻은 개 나무란다 (Korean): That’s the pot calling the kettle black
  26. To give pumpkins to someone – Dar calabazas a alguien (Spanish): To reject someone
  27. To blow little ducks – Pūst pīlītes (Latvian): To lie
  28. To wear a cat on your head – 猫をかぶる (Japanese): To play innocent
  29. The thief has a burning hat – На воре и шапка горит (Russian): One’s conscience betrays them
  30. To pay the duck – pagar o pato (Portuguese): To take the blame
  31. To throw cream in someone’s eyes – bacati kajmak u oči (Croatian): To obviously lie
  32. The demon of midday – Le démon de midi (French): A midlife crisis
  33. A cat’s forehead – 猫の額 (Japanese): A tiny space
  34. Did an elephant stomp on your ear? – Słoń nastąpił ci na ucho? (Polish): You have no ear for music.
  35. To add one’s mustard – Seinen Senf dazugeben (German): to give one’s two cents
  36. To go to bed with the hens and get up with the cocks (Bulgarian): to go to sleep early and wake up early
  37. To have a fat morning – Faire la grasse matinée (French): To sleep in
  38. A good fork – um bom garfo (Portuguese): A foodie
  39. To hang noodles from someone’s ears – Вешать лапшу на уши (Russian): To fool someone
  40. I only understand the train station – Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof (German): I don’t understand any of this.
  41. To make a crab’s mouth – fazer boca de siri (Portuguese): To be discreet
  42. To walk around in hot porridge – Chodit kolem horké kaše (Czech): To tiptoe around something
  43. To swallow grass snakes – Avaler des couleuvres (French): To be too insulted to respond
  44. To call a cat a cat – Appeler un chat un chat (French): To tell it like it is
  45. Did you fall from a Christmas tree – Z choinki się urwałaś? (Polish): You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about
  46. To ride an elephant to catch a grasshopper – ขี่ช้างจับตั๊กแตน (Thai): To put in so much and get so little in return
  47. The mustard is getting to my nose – La moutarde me monte au nez (French): I’m getting angry
  48. A germ across the sea can be seen; an elephant on the eyelid can’t – kuman di seberang lautan tampak, gajah di pelupuk mata tak tampak (Indonesian): It’s easy to see everyone else’s faults, but you’re blind to your own
  49. Jumping from the rooster to the donkey – Sauter du coq à l’âne (French): Haphazardly changing the subject
  50. The carrots are cooked – Les carottes sont cuites (French): What’s done is done.
  51. One afternoon in your next reincarnation – ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ (Thai): It’s never going to happen.
  52. You can’t pluck feathers off a bald chicken – van een kale kip kan je geen veren plukken. (Dutch): It’s never going to happen.
  53. The balls of a swan – Muda Labudova (Croatian): The impossible
  54. I have other cats to whip – J’ai d’autres chats à fouetter! (French): To have better things to do
  55. Big piece – Un pezzo grosso (Italian): Big shot
  56. To inflate a cow – 吹牛 (Chinese): To brag
  57. To cost the eyes in your head – Coûter les yeux de la tête (French): To pay an arm and a leg
  58. Clear as dumpling broth – klar wie Kloßbrühe (German): Perfectly clear
  59. The cow went to the swamp – a vaca foi pro brejo (Portuguese): An utterly hopeless situation
  60. To drink like a hole – Boire comme un trou (French): To drink like a fish
  61. To have a pin in your ear – At have en pind i øret (Danish): To never listen
  62. You can sharpen an axe with the top of your head – Хоть кол на голове теши (Russian): You’re insanely stubborn
  63. To not know how to do anything with your 10 fingers – Ne rien savoir faire de ses dix doigts (French): To be completely useless
  64. Like a fart in a jam jar – Fel rhech mewn pot jam (Welsh): Useless
  65. To make smoke pour out of my seven orifices – 七窍生烟 (Chinese): To anger me
  66. Letting a frog out of your mouth – Päästää sammakko suusta (Finnish): Saying the wrong thing
  67. You iron my head – Գլուխս արդուկիր (Armenian): You annoy me
  68. Get stuffed with hay! – wypchać się sianem (Polish): Shove off!
  69. Go drink sea water! – Ashrab mah al-bahr (Arabic): Kill yourself!
  70. God bless you, and may your mustache grow like bushwood/brushwood – бурхан оршоо бутын чинээ сахал урга (Mongolian): Bless you.

More on these idioms:

Fluentu  |  CNN  |  LivingLanguage  |  FrenchTogether  |  Ted  |  Fluentu (Spanish)  |  Fluentu (German)  |  Fluentu (French)  |  Business Insider  |  Vagabond  |  Fluentu (Italian)  |  Indy100