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Idiots and Idioms





hades9366
Idiomatic language (area specific slang or descriptive language) is one of the most rapidly changing parts of the English language and can cause a few communication problems when you're travelling.

In Oz(Australia) the word pi#s (don't think I'm allowed to swear here) has a lot of meanings. Of course there's "taking the pi#s" (doing something in a joking manner) "pi#ssing all over something"(beating or humiliating something) and then there's pi#s used to mean alcohol. Some of them are used the same way in the UK some aren't but I don't think many have crossed over to the US.

I was talking with an American friend about someone we both knew who was having a party and I told him that I'd go if she was putting on the pi#s (supplying alcohol). I gathered from his expression that he hadn't understood me but it took a bit of backtracking to explain myself.

What idiomatic faux pas have you come across?
Gieter
Yesterday on Frihost: "to drive a stick." You have to admit, it sounds ambigious.

I think English language has some nice idioms: "to pop out of the blue" "a walk in the park" and lots others.

In my class, we also have an idiom "tetten" which means "boobies." We say that all over the time, it has no real meaning, we just say it to say something, but lots of people don't understand that (especially teachers!)
Vrythramax
I'm pretty sure in the UK a fag or faggot can be a cigarette or a piece of kindling wood...but in the US it means something totally differant and derogatory.
DoctorBeaver
Vrythramax wrote:
I'm pretty sure in the UK a fag or faggot can be a cigarette or a piece of kindling wood...but in the US it means something totally differant and derogatory.


Yes, fag=cigarette. I remember the 1st time I went to the U.S. I offered a cigarette to the guy next to me at the bar with the words "Would you like a fag?". I got a very strange look and had to do some quick explaining.

"Faggot" normally refers to a food item made from chopped liver, onions, and other goodies. The use of it to refer to kindling is now more-or-less obsolete.

Further to what our Australian friend said, to an American "I was pi**ed" means "I was annoyed", to a Brit it means "I was drunk". To express annoyance we say "I was pi**ed off". However, "I pi**ed off" means "I left". Confused
Vrythramax
@DoctorBeaver

So I guess "throwing another faggot on the fire" won't get you a jail sentence in the UK huh? [snicker]
Gieter
Vrythramax wrote:
@DoctorBeaver

So I guess "throwing another faggot on the fire" won't get you a jail sentence in the UK huh? [snicker]


You're barking up the wrong tree! (http://humanities.byu.edu/elc/student/idioms/idioms/wrong_tree.html)
jeopardy98
It's funny that you mention this because I teach 6th grade English and I currently have a student who is Japanese and he spoke NO English when he started. He is one of my best students and he works his butt off to learn the language. He has learned 10x what the English kids have this year but when we did idiomatic expressions he got so confused. Like when I said it's raining, he said, "how can cat and dog fall from sky?" It is very hard to explain the figurative part of our language to him.
Gieter
Do they still use that expression "it's raining cats and dogs"? Shocked My former teacher English would slap us to death if we ever used it! (what a lovely teacher that was)

Are there no idioms in Japanese or does the student just thinks you're saying things literally?
Garnet
No the Japanese do have them, I live with two exchange students - I hear things that don't make sense all the time. They started using them whenever possible to make me doubt my Japanese.

Why couldn't you say it's raining cats and dogs? I mean, it doesn't paint a very pretty picture but still...
Gieter
Because it's a clich้ expression... and he says no-one in the UK would spontaneously say "Hey, look, it's raining cats and dogs." He probably didn't considered it stylish, but I'm just happy to be still alive!
smartbei
You people need to stop beating around the bush and start getting to business. Idioms are a piece of cake to know and understand, and there is no need to bend over backwards in order to understand them. The bottom line of what I am trying to say is that there is definately no reason to get butterflies in your stomach just from the thought of using idioms.

While they do tend to drive some people up the wall, idioms are really very easy to use and understand, easy as pie really. Some may give you some food for thought, but others really help in hitting the nail on the head when talking about certain subjects. With out idioms and proverbs or the like, language becomes boring, even if it is sometimes required to hold one's horses and think until the meaning is on the tip of your tongue.
DoctorBeaver
Vrythramax wrote:
@DoctorBeaver

So I guess "throwing another faggot on the fire" won't get you a jail sentence in the UK huh? [snicker]


I just twigged! Laughing
the_mariska
smartbei wrote:
You people need to stop beating around the bush and start getting to business. Idioms are a piece of cake to know and understand, and there is no need to bend over backwards in order to understand them. The bottom line of what I am trying to say is that there is definately no reason to get butterflies in your stomach just from the thought of using idioms.

While they do tend to drive some people up the wall, idioms are really very easy to use and understand, easy as pie really. Some may give you some food for thought, but others really help in hitting the nail on the head when talking about certain subjects. With out idioms and proverbs or the like, language becomes boring, even if it is sometimes required to hold one's horses and think until the meaning is on the tip of your tongue.

Sounds like a stupid example from my English book. I've never got down to work on idioms, and I don't think I'll ever need. I can learn learn the expressions that are really used from TV or literature, and why the hell should I bother about some phrases that exist only in the learner's books? Wink
Sakaki
in spanish some of those expressions also exist only translated.. such as hitting the nail on the head..i guess its because of all the small english colonies that settled in southamerica (at least in Chile) during the 19th-20th century..

Still its odd to think that english idioms could pass over to spanish, right?
hades9366
Tracing the linguistic origins of idioms is difficult. There has been a lot of trade and cultural exchange between Spain and England though. One that confuses me is the three monkeys; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. A statue of the three monkeys dating back to the Edo period adorns a temple near Tokyo but it's origins in European culture seem equally old. I've been trying to work out which one predates the other. Anyone have any clues?
Vlien
Gieter wrote:
In my class, we also have an idiom "tetten" which means "boobies." We say that all over the time, it has no real meaning, we just say it to say something, but lots of people don't understand that (especially teachers!)


Muhaaa, that's so silly! Sounds like a synonym to "hoereeeuh"? (Haha, happy to be swearing in Dutch.) Your 'idiom' made me think of that tongue-in-cheek program We Like to Party on JimTV. At least, I think it's sort of ironic, the way the presenter's always laughing at those party animals... using those pretty idioms in front of the camera just to get their faces on the telly.
Tetten... why always involve female body parts? *sigh*
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