01 April 2008

When there are no birds, even an arse is a nightingale

...Still, differences in idiom do teach us about culture and history. Where an English-speaker says "the die is cast", a Mexican says "the rice is cooked". The proverb "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" becomes, in Russian, "When there are no fish, even a crab is a fish," which reveals a surprising amount about what survival once entailed for the typical Russian peasant. (I admit, though, to being baffled by the cruder popular version of this phrase, "When there are no birds, even an arse is a nightingale.")

I also don't get how the arse can be related to a nightingale, but in Chinese, our 生米已煮成熟饭 is identical to the Mexicans'. Amazing.

No comments:

Post a Comment