Pojdi Se Solit/Go Salt Yourself: Culturally Untranslatable Phrases

By Laurel Sutton

February 10, 2011

Just like TV Tropes, Reddit can be a great/horrible time waster. I generally don’t go there unless someone I trust sends me a link, and recently I got a great one.

The question: What are your favorite culturally untranslateable phrases?

The original poster kicks things off with this amazing example:

Jackfruit.

I was born and raised in Bangladesh. I tried to explain the common saying “Gacche kathal gophe tel” to my friends today. But in English, “Oiling your mustache in anticipation of the jackfruit tree bearing fruit” doesn’t have the same snap.

It means “Don’t get ahead of yourself”, as in the American expression “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

But I like the fact that the Bangladeshi version makes the assumptions that:
a) You love jackfruit (which is milder than durian but if even slightly overripe smells like diarrhea),
b) You have a mustache that’s thick enough that it would be a hindrance to eating the juicy and sticky jackfruit,
c) You oil the mustache before you eat the jackfruit so that the remnant stink (which can get pretty intense) doesn’t f*** with your luxurious facial hair, and
d) You are so excited by the idea of eating jackfruit that you oil your mustache in anticipation of this glorious event.

That’s mine. Share some of yours please!

There are 3794 comments on this post. Here are some of the best examples. Disclaimer: Some people could be making this stuff up – it is Reddit, after all. Disclaimer #2: There’s lots of rude stuff at the link. Click at your own risk.

Spanish (South America)

“A vos te chifla el moño.” – Your bow tie is whistling. (You’re crazy).

“Qué baranda!” – What a hand rail! (What an awful smell!)

“Quién te dió vela en este entierro?” – Who gave you a candle in this burial? (What made you think you were included in this conversation?)

“Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda” – A monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey (said of someone with no style/manners)

“Sos un zanahoria/zapato” – You are a carrot (or shoe) – (You’re dumb)

German

“Es ist mir Wurst” – It’s all sausage to me (I really don’t care)

Slovenian

“Pojdi se solit” – Go salt yourself  (You’re annoying me)

Japanese

“猫をかぶる” [Neko o kaburu] – Wearing a cat on your head (To feign innocence)

Quebeçois

“Avoir les yeux dans la graisse de binnes” – You are staring at the bean’s grease (To describe someone who is in-love / have a crush on someone)

“Tirer le diable par la queue” – To drag Satan around with his tail (To have financial problems)

“Accouche qu’on baptise” – Give birth so we can administer baptism (Just say it already!)

Greek

“Εκαμεs τον μουτσιον επιστήμη” – You made masturbation a science (You’re overcomplicating things)

Cantonese

“鬼畫符” – A spell written by a ghost (Lousy handwriting)

“啞仔吃黃蓮” – A mule eating yellow lotus (Only he himself knows the bitterness)

Call this moose.

Norwegian

“Rope på elgen” = To call for the moose (Slang for vomiting)

Swedish

“Ingen ko på isen” – No cow on the ice (No hurry, in regards to an errand)

And my favorite in Italian:

“Quel che non ammazza, ingrassa” – That which doesn’t kill you, makes you fatter.

Take that, Nietzsche!

  • Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!