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International Animal Idioms

Phrases, idioms, proverbs, and sayings can be the hardest things for non-native speakers to learn because most of the time you cannot translate the words literally. What could a French person possibly mean when saying, “There’s an eel under the rock”? This episode focuses on a few interesting rodent- and cattle-related phrases in English and in other cultures.

By
Bonnie Mills, read by Mignon Fogarty,
February 9, 2017
Episode #555

Page 3 of 3

Conclusion

Before we go, here’s the answer to what the French mean when they say, “There’s an eel under the rock.” If you guessed it is related to rats or cattle, the main animals we talked about in our discussion of international idioms, Holy cow, you are right—at least peripherally! The French are saying that they smell a rat—that something fishy is going on. It’s possible that eels smell as bad as rats. Either way, don’t sniff too closely. Sorry we made you wait until the cows came home—a long time—to get the answer.

That segment was written by Bonnie Mills, author of The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier who blogs at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com.

Sources

[1] Spanishdict.com. “rata.” http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/la%20rata. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[2] Bhalla, Jag. I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears and Other Intriguing Idioms from Around the World, New York: National Geographic Society, 2009, p. 85.

[3] Lane, James. “6 Hilariously Illustrated French Animal Idioms.” https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/french-animal-idioms. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] The Free Dictionary. “Lab rat.” http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/lab+rat. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Online Etymology Dictionary. “Guinea pig.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=guinea+pig&searchmode=none. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] English-Idioms-And-Expressions.com. “Foreign Expressions: A Random Collection.” http://www.english-idioms-and-expressions.com/foreign-expressions.html. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] Collins English-German Dictionary. “When or while the cat’s away the mice will play.” https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english-german/when-or-while-the-cat-s-away-the-mice-will-play. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[8] English-Idioms-And-Expressions.com. “Foreign Expressions: A Random Collection.” http://www.english-idioms-and-expressions.com/foreign-expressions.html. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[9] Funk, Charles Earle. Heavens to Betsy! & Other Curious Sayings. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993, p. 187.

[10] chinahighlights.com. “The Year of the Rat — Fortune, Career, Health, and Love Prospects in 2017,” http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/rat.htm. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] Weird Asia News. “India’s Rat Temple: A True Test of Faith.”  http://www.weirdasianews.com/2012/02/16/indias-rat-temple-true-test-faith/. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[12] Kaplan, Sarah. The Washington Post. “After 8 centuries, rats exonerated in spread of Black Death. Gerbils implicated.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/24/after-8-centuries-rats-exonerated-in-spread-of-black-death-gerbils-implicated/?utm_term=.9f9777b64c17. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Funk, Charles Earle. A Hog on Ice & Other Curious Expressions. New York: Harper & Row, 1985, p. 147.

[14] The Free Dictionary. “Bull in a china shop.” http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/bull+in+a+china+shop. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] Funk, Charles Earle. A Hog on Ice & Other Curious Expressions. New York: Harper & Row, 1985, p. 24.

[16] The Free Dictionary. “Holy cow.” http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/holy+cow. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] The Free Dictionary. “Holy.” http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/holy. Accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Funk, Charles Earle. Heavens to Betsy! & Other Curious Sayings. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993, p. 95.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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