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Visual Wordplay for the Bilingual Brain

by Eva Boynton on November 14, 2017

A cartoon of a woman pulling a leg and hands grabbing her hair, showing how visual wordplay with Spanish and English proverbs tickles the bilingual brain. (image © Eva Boynton).

“Ouch! You’re pulling my leg!”
“¡Ay! ¡Me estás tomando el pelo!” (“Ouch! You’re grabbing my hair!”)
© drawing by Eva Boynton

Spanish and English Proverbs in Pictures

While living in Mexico, I heard phrases whose literal translations created odd visual images for me and confused my developing bilingual brain. For example: “Me estás tomando el pelo!” (You are grabbing my hair!”). My initial bewildered response? I checked to see if my hands were minding their business at my side.

With further explanation, I soon understood that such strange phrases were proverbios y refranes (proverbs and sayings), wise and colorful ways to make a point. In this case: “You are pulling my leg.”

A Taste of French Sayings

by Meredith Mullins on April 20, 2015

Triptych of mustard, beans, and bread, showing the food focus of French sayings. (Image © Meredith Mullins)

Inspiration for tasty French idioms—mustard, beans, and bread
© Meredith Mullins

French Idioms—A Focus on Food

You may never have had the pleasure of mustard up your nose.

You may never have felt the desperation of having no beans in the house.

You may not know the boredom of a long dreary day, which, in French lore, is “a day without bread.”

But, if you’re living in the world of French sayings, these expressions are common—and mean more than their literal translations. 

Culture Smart: Is the Rain in Spain the Same?

by Sheron Long on January 27, 2014

Dark clouds and a downpour, prompting colorful rain sayings in different languages. (image © Gregor Kervina / Hemera)

What do you say to describe a drencher?
© Gregor Kervina / Hemera

Rain Sayings in Different Languages

The one thing about rain is that it’s wet! All over the world.  But apart from that essential characteristic, the different languages of the world have found varied ways to describe rain, especially when it’s a gully washer.

Bucketloads of Wet

In Spain, a heavy rain comes down a cántaros (in jugfuls).  In a number of other countries—Finland, Romania, and Russia, for example—it “rains like from a bucket.”

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