Folium: Idioms of the World via

Folium: Idioms of the World via

Folium: Idioms of the World via

Folium: Idioms of the World via

“It’s raining cats and dogs out there!”

When I was a child, my mother would use idioms constantly. On any given day she would use a half dozen idioms, in many languages.

Mom was French. A product of French Canadian immigrants who lived in New Hampshire. Much to my father’s consternation, she and my grandmother spoke French around the house constantly. Her “accent” varied from French Canadian Canuck to Boston brogue with a bit of general New England. I must admit that it did seem odd sometimes to hear avoir les dents longues (to have long teeth) coming from her as an encouragement to be ambitious. She would say that one should always want to be better than they were at any given time. If she was stressing the point it would be avoir les dents qui rayon le parquet (to have teeth that scratched the floor)… To be extremely ambitious.

Open Wide...

Open wide…

We all generously sprinkle idioms into our daily conversations without realizing it is happening. How many times do we interject “a penny for your thoughts” or remind someone that they may be ‘biting off more than they can chew”.

This may sound like “I’m beating around the bush”, but “you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover”. I assure you that this information will “not cost an arm and a leg”.

The simple fact is that we are not alone in this affliction. The use of idioms is rampant in all languages. The Germans are likely to say “to live like a maggot in bacon” (to live the life of luxury) or Klar wieklobruhe (as clear as potato dumpling water) or “as clear as mud”.



In Russian, “to hang noodles on one’s ears” is to tell lies. In Spanish, no tener para un bocado is to say “without a mouthful to eat” or “to be penniless”.

It seems that every language has it’s wise, or not so wise, sayings. They offer advice on how to live or not to live. They transfer principles and values of a given culture to upcoming generations. These combinations of words are not always complete sentences yet they offer figurative meaning. They create pictures in the mind regardless of language and can help in the learning of new languages by creating a common thread of thought. So I offer this advice. “Don’t cry over spilt milk”, “Cross that bridge when you come to it”, and of course “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Or as the Polish would say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”.

This is not my first rodeo…

LEAF Contributor