Thursday, April 23

twentythree: idiomanimals

for the past fifteen Thursdays, I've been assigned to lead a one-hour conversation group for the Writing Lab. it's great fun.

this week's theme was "idioms and slang," so we talked about all the odd, poetical, metaphorical, idomatic phrases that we use in English. a million of them involve animals. to count chickens before they hatch. to let sleeping dogs lie. to open a can of worms. to rain cats and dogs, or let the cat out of the bag. we also noticed a bunch of cloud-themed idioms. on cloud nine. head in the clouds. clouds with silver linings.

I also asked my conversationists about idioms from their own languages. it took them a few minutes to think of some, but I learned three that tickled my brain most delightfully. I feel so grateful to have stumbled into a place where I got to have them explained to me. I wish I could spell them in Chinese or Korean, but these less-than-exact translations will just have to do. they are all animal-related, too. if a dragon counts as an animal, and why wouldn't it?

"a dog catching a mouse" (Chinese)
someone who encroaches on another person's responsibilities, or oversteps their bounds somehow by trying to do more than their own job entails. it's as if the dog doesn't think the cat is doing it right, so he has to but in.

"drawing feet on your picture of a snake" (Chinese)
when you think you can add just a little bit more or keep working a little bit longer on a project, but the extra work you put in ends up ruining the whole thing.

"to paint the dragon's eye" (Korean)
this one is sort of the opposite of the snake-with-feet idiom--it means putting the perfect finishing touch on something. traditionally, the eye of the dragon is painted very last.

I love all of these concepts. aren't they awesome? if you hear me trying to use them in conversation, please play along.

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