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I have to pluck a chicken with you… funny food-related idioms you’ve probably never heard


Food appears a lot in English idioms… ever been called the apple of someone’s eye or a bad egg? Are you as useless as a pork chop or is it easy as a piece of cake?

Tounge Tied, a UK language and translation service recently sent us the best food-related idioms used in other languages! We think they are pretty funny. Maybe you might want to try some out?

By Isabella Fink for Tounge Tied

A spoonful of insults…

French Une vraie courge! An utter squash! Idiot!
French Quelle nouille! Such a noodle! Idiot!
French Occupe-toi de tes oignons! Mind your own onions! Mind your own business!
French Va te faire cuire un œuf! Cook yourself an egg! Go to hell!
German Du gehst mir auf den Keks You go on my cookie You get on my nerves
Hindi Bandar kya jaane adrak ka swad? What does a monkey know about the taste of ginger? You don’t know what you’re talking about
Spanish Me importa un pepino I care a cucumber I don’t give a damn
Danish Pølsearme Sausage arms You’re weak
Danish Grødhovede Porridge head You have no brain

A dollop of philosophy…

German Es geht um die Wurst It’s about the sausage It’s now or never
German Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei Everything has an end, only the sausage has two Everything must pass
Portuguese Alimentar um burro a pão-de-ló To feed the donkey sponge cake To treat someone nicely who doesn’t deserve it
Turkish Benim basima gelen cig tavugun basina gelmez What happened to me would not happen to a raw chicken Something happened that is so weird that it’s funny
Turkish Incir cekirdegini doldurmayacak sebepler Reasons that would not fill a fig seed There aren’t good enough reasons to be upset
Turkish Armudun iyisini ayılar yer The good pears are eaten by bears The least deserving people get the rewards
Russian Кашу маслом не испортишь A little butter won’t spoil your porridge There can never be too many good things
Japanese Mochi ha mochi ya Rice cake, rice cake maker Every field has an expert

A pinch of money…

Italian L’ho comprato per un tozzo di pane I bought it for a piece of bread It was a real bargain
Portuguese A preço de banana To cost the same as bananas Cheap as chips
French Mettre du beurre dans les épinards To add butter to the spinach To earn a bit extra

A sprinkle of personality traits…

German Schokoladenseite zeigen To present yourself from your best side To only see good things
German Eine treulose Tomate sein To be an unfaithful tomato To be disloyal
German Das Haar in der Suppe finden To look for the hair in the soup To never be satisfied
Polish żyć jak pączek w maśle To live like a donut in butter To be as happy as a pig in mud
Italian E’ buono come un pezzo di pane He’s as good as a piece of bread He’s a really good guy
Turkish Her seye maydanoz olmak To be parsley to everything To have an opinion and be nosy about everything
Turkish Agzinda bakla islanmamak A fava bean doesn’t get wet in somebody’s mouth If you tell this person a secret, they will tell it to other people
Japanese Sansho ha kotsubu de piririto karai Sansho (a Japanese pepper) is small, but hot enough Even if someone is small, if they are cheerful and talented, you can’t ignore them
Cantonese 吃醋 To be sipping vinegar To be jealous

A heap of conversational skills…

French Ramener ta fraise To bring your strawberry To butt in on a conversation
Polish Rzucać grochem o ścianę Throwing peas onto a wall To fall on deaf ears
German Seinen Senf dazu geben To add one’s mustard To have a say
German Ich habe mit dir ein Hühnchen zu rupfen I have to pluck a chicken with you We need to talk
Russia вешать лапшу на уши To hang noodles on someone’s ears To pull someone’s leg
Danish En tynd kop te It’s a weak cup of tea Your argument is not very strong

And a dash of something extra…

German Kleine Brötchen backen To bake little rolls To take small steps to start something
German Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen To play the offended liver sausage To sulk, be a sourpuss
German Extrawurst braten I have to fry you a special sausage You always need something extra
Spanish Pedirle peras al olmo To ask for pears from an elm tree To try to do something that’s impossible
Spanish Agarrar a alguien con las manos en la masa To catch someone with their hands in the dough To catch someone doing something they shouldn’t
Danish Nye boller på suppen We need new meatballs in the soup We need new input and ideas
Cantonese 雞毛蒜皮 Chicken feather and garlic skin Irrelevant or worthless things
Polish Bułka z masłem A bread roll with butter Something that’s easily achieved
Italian Rendere pan per focaccia To give back bread for focaccia To get revenge – an eye for an eye
Italian C’entra come i cavoli a merenda It fits like a cabbage for the afternoon snack It doesn’t fit, it’s inappropriate
Swedish Nu blir det andra bullar! Now there will be other bread rolls! No more Mr. Nice Guy!

And we’ll leave you with a couple to keep you guessing:

  • Swedish: ha rent mjöl i påsen = to have clean flour in one’s bag
  • German: Mit dem/der ist nicht gut Kirschen essen = It’s no good eating cherries with him/her

Can you guess how we would express the meanings of these idioms in (good!) English? Let us know! And if you know of any other tasty idioms, please do share them with us!


About the author

Isabell Fink is a native Austrian and studied Linguistics and Literature at the University of Innsbruck and in Manchester. Before joining Tongue Tied, she worked as a Translation Assistant and in Customer Services and Purchasing.
Formed in 1989, Tongue Tied (Manchester Ltd) is a specialist language agency.

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