Buying a Cat in a Sack and Other Funny Idiom Translations

14 Jul 2020


Languages are fascinating and funny things. And there are so many sayings and idioms that we use in our every day speaking that we rarely think twice about.

But if you ever try to translate idioms from one language to another, you realize just how strange some of the things we say really are.

Take the following idioms, for example:

  • “It’s a piece of cake”
  • “That’s the last straw”
  • “Beat around the bush”
  • “A perfect storm”
  • “Under the weather”

Most native English speakers are familiar with those sayings and know what they mean. However, when you translate them into Spanish or Italian, for example, the literal translations make no sense at all.

English isn’t the only language that uses funny idioms, though. This great blog from explores some seriously funny literal idiom translations from languages around the world. From the German “Die Katze im Sack kaufen,” which translates to “Buy a cat in a sack,” to the Polish phrase, “Z choinki się urwałaś?” which translates to “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?”, these idioms from around the globe are sure to give you a good laugh.

And of course, there’s my personal favorite, the Kasakh phrase “Сенің арқаңда күн көріп жүрмін” which literally translates to “I see the sun on your back,” but is used to mean “Thank you for being you. I am alive because of your help.”

Do you have a favorite idiom (or two!) that probably doesn’t translate well? If so, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Watercooler Writer 
Ever wonder what writers talk about? Our writers are always sharing something new with each other, from the latest and greatest in apps and technology to grammar rules and the origin of certain words. With our Watercooler Writer series, we have taken our very best finds, and are sharing them with you.

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2 thoughts on “Buying a Cat in a Sack and Other Funny Idiom Translations

  1. My mother tongue is Afrikaans and we have so many hilarious idioms and sayings. From a young age, we heard: “Boontjie kry sy loontjie.”

    The direct translation is “Small bean gets his (small) wage.” Basically, it means you’ll get what you deserve when you do something mean or unkind. It’s all about karma 😉

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