If you’re travelling abroad you would hate to embarrass yourself and, as the Swedes say, “get caught with your beard in a mailbox.” OK the translation to English leaves something to be desired, but it’s never a bad idea to brush up on a foreign language. Check out these food-related phrases from around the world. They can’t be translated or taken literally, but if you throw one out, the locals (or that cute guy at the quaint café) will definitely be impressed.
Teacher’s pet/Petit chouchou (French)
Petit chouchou literally translates to “little cabbage,” but this phrase doesn’t really have anything to do with the cruciferous vegetable.
Mind your own onions/Occupe-toi de tes oignons (French)
A smellier version of minding your own beeswax.
The carrots are cooked!/Les carrots sont cuites! (French)
A simple metaphor to stay that, well, there’s nothing else to be done. Accept it and move on!
“I feel like such a turnip” (British English)
You won’t hear this slang in the U.S., but across the pond, those who speak the Queen’s English use this phrase plenty—usually when made to feel a bit silly or unexpectedly stupid in a social situation.
I give a cucumber/Me importa un pepino (Spanish)
In a nutshell, this phrase translates to “I don’t give a damn.” Why cucumbers instead of another vegetable, I’m not sure—but they are pretty much just water in a thin green skin, so maybe their bland, unexciting flavor has something to do with it.
To slide in on a shrimp sandwich/Att glida in på en räkmacka (Swedish)
It might sound strange to your non-Swedish ears at first, but apparently it’s easy to slide on shellfish—this saying refers to someone who got all the rewards and payoff without any of the work.
In the middle of everything like parsley/In mezzo come il prezzemolo (Italian)
Parsley is ubiquitous in Italian cuisine, and in the dishes of many other countries and cultures across the globe. So this one makes total sense, no matter what your first language—parsley is in everything and is the go-to garnish in restaurants the world over, so, to put it bluntly—it’s always in the way. And if someone you know is always in the way, too, now you can tell them so…in some beautiful Italian.
Just like washing potatoes/芋を洗うよう (Japanese- Imo o arau yō)
Any New Yorker knows how a hot, crowded subway feels. Here, we’d say we’re crammed into the car like a bunch of sardines, but in Japanese the reference is to tubers instead of tiny fish.
Hang noodles on someone’s ears/вешать лапшу на уши (Russian - veshat' lapshu na ushi)
This is what you’d say if you were trying to pull one over on a friend. Lapsha can mean both “noodle” and “scrap of cloth” in Russian. Putting scraps of cloth over someone’s ears could block out the sound and make them temporarily “deaf,” and after awhile, the second meaning of the word lapsha was the one that took over.
You have tomatoes on your eyes/Sie haben Tomaten auf den Augen (German)
The meaning of this one is simple—you’re missing something. Everyone else in the room sees it, but not you. Get with it.
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