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Written by Javier Arizpe

September 23, 2020

10 interesting English and Spanish idioms

Do you know what an idiom is? This word comes from the Latin idiōma, which comes from the Ancient Greek ἰδίωμα, “peculiarity.” These are short phrases used in our everyday speech and shared by a community. They are part of a group of expressions known as paroemias, which are characterized by not having a literal meaning and transmitting a message that encourages reflection or learning. You probably have heard some of them, from your grandparents, your parents, or even on TV,

These brief texts come from popular and/or regional ideas, and are passed on from one generation to another; therefore, they don’t usually have a known author. Thanks to them, we can perceive the world through our ancestors’ eyes and use their experiences, knowledge, and customs in our lives. Curiously, many idioms or proverbs can be really funny. Here are some examples, in English and Spanish, with a brief explanation of their meaning.

  1. No hay que buscarle ruido al chicharrón (Don’t try to make the pork rind sound)

    If you know that a situation or a person could be dangerous, you should not take risks or provoke them.

  2. Matar pulgas a balazos (To shoot fleas)

    This refers to a situation where a person has to deal with a minor problem and tries to solve it with huge efforts. The lesson here is that we should give things the importance they deserve.

  3. A caballo regalado no le mires los dientes (Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth)

    Simple: when you receive a gift, you must accept it with enthusiasm and without objections. Be polite and don’t worry about the quality or quantity, only the intention.

  4. Echarle mucha crema a sus tacos (Put too much cream on your tacos)

    This phrase can be used whenever a person brags too much about their achievements or exaggerates when doing something.

  5. Como éramos pocos, parió la abuela (Since we were few, grandma gave birth)

    This is equivalent to the expression “It’s the last straw”. When something already bad gets worse. The lesson is not that deep, but the phrase is still funny.

  6. The lights are on, but nobody’s home

    This phrase can be used to refer to a stupid person. It’s like saying that someone is awake but maybe some of their mental capacities are not.

  7. When pigs fly

    This famous phrase can be used to talk about something that is not very likely or just impossible.

  8. Don’t cry over spilt milk

    This advices us to not worry about problems or things that already happened and cannot be changed.

  9. Bob’s your uncle

    This strange phrase is very common in the United Kingdom, and it is used to say “And that’s it.” For instance, it can be used at the end of a series of simple instructions, in order to say that it is “a piece of cake.”

  10. Hold your horses

    This last example is a way of telling someone to stop and think about a decision calmly or to wait before acting impulsively.

As you can see, many of these phrases reflect the culture of the community where they originated with particular and funny expressions. What a way of passing on knowledge, right? Are you familiar with any of these idioms? What other idioms do you find funny?

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