Last time we talked about the ways colors have infused themselves into the English language. Naturally, this happens with other languages, too. But often there’s a little tweak. For instance, in English one could get a black eye, but in French it would be a black butter eye. And in English one could get red with rage, but in Italian it would be green with rage.
Alan Kennedy’s Color/Language Project has collected hundreds and hundreds of idioms involving color from languages across the globe. Below is a small sampling of my favorites from this site. If you enjoy these, I encourage you to check out Alan’s site. You’ll love it.
|passer une nuit blanche||to spend a white night||to have a sleepless night|
|blanc-bec||white beak||an inexperienced but pretentious person|
|une oie blanche||a white goose||a naive, silly girl|
|œil au beurre noir||black butter eye||bruised eye|
|Chou vert et vert chou||cabbage green and green cabbage||six of one, a half-dozen of the other|
|faire quelqu’un marron||to make someone brown||to cheat on someone|
|blanca como la nalga de una monja||white like a nun’s butt cheek||pale|
|más listo que los ratones colorados||more clever than red mice||very cunning|
|un principe azul||a blue prince||Prince Charming|
|di punto in bianco||from a point in white||suddenly, unexpectedly|
|verde dalla rabbia||green from rage||very angry|
|un giallo||a yellow||an unsolved mystery|
|eminenza grigia||gray eminence||a powerful man controlling the situation behind the scenes|
|Halbgötter in Weiß||demigods in white||physicians|
|Heute rot, Morgen tot||today red, tomorrow dead||here today, gone tomorrow|
|das Gelbe vom Ei||the yellow of the egg||a good thing|
|Blauäugig sein||to be blue-eyed||naïve, gullible|
|Nachts sind alle Katzen grau||at night all cats are gray||It makes no difference (under certain circumstances).|
|sich eine goldene Nase verdienen||earn yourself a golden nose||to make a fortune|
|mieć żółte papiery||to have yellow papers||to be insane|
|myśleć o niebieskich migdałach||to think about blue almonds||to daydream|
|szary cztowiek||gray person||average Joe|
|отложить на чёрный день||put aside for a black day||put aside for a rainy day|
|голубая мечта||light blue desire||the thing you crave the most|
|אין לי מושג ירוק||I don’t have a green notion||I have no idea|
|צהובים זה לזה||yellow to each other||hating each other|
|טלית שכולה תכלת||a light blue prayer shawl||innocent & pure (used sarcastically)|
|chan ‘eil e geal da||he has no white for him||he is not fond of him|
|dearg-amadan||a red fool||a complete fool|
|maputi ang tainga||white-eared||stingy|
|maitim ang buto||bone is black||bad person|
|άσπρο πάτο!||white bottom!||bottoms up!|
|μαύρα μάτια κάναμε να σε δούμε||our eyes turned black to see you||we missed you for a long time|
|πράσινα άλογα||green horses!||an exclamation indicating disbelief; nonsense|
|πρασίνισε απ’το κακό του||he turned green from anger||he got very angry|
12 thoughts on “Foreign color idioms”
“blanca como la nalga de una monja”
… white like a nun’s butt cheek.
Well, that’s just brilliant. 😀
This is great. When you listed the English idioms I was thinking, “Yeah, I know, but what do they say in other languages?” Thanks for the link and the choice selections [that’s NOT redundant].
“light blue desire”… Wonder what the origin of that is. Neat stuff!
You might just be so stunningly brilliant that I have to wear sunglasses to read you. 😉
Please don’t make me blush. I’m working on my pallor.
Hmmm. Ok. Pallor is easy in the winter, so I can only wonder why that is: are you preparing for for the invasion of illiterate and pale vampires and zombies and aliens, so that you can move easily amongst them as you correct their grammar?
eeep! Only ONE ‘for’ — I suppose I should be wearing my editor hat when I comment. sorry: feel free to edit and correct.
Preparing for the invasion? Darling, it’s already here. And a lot of those vampires are going to want to put out lengthy memoirs.
We in Canada are often the last to know about everything, but that DOES explain a whole bunch of everything. Vampires are rather verbose, aren’t they? I suppose that’s the 17th C ethic/aesthetic that they hold dear in their cold, dead hearts.
This is an awesome list! I saved a couple just to help lighten the null from other reading materials I have to cover. Light blue desire……awesome.
Thanks for the link. FYI the site has a new location on the web now: