Lost in translation

If a Russian were to accuse you of getting lost in three pine trees, or a Swede warn you that the cow is now on the ice, you’re first reaction would probably be bafflement.

If you study illustrator Kerry Hyndman’s new book Hyndman’s Illustrated Compedium of International Idioms however, you’d realise that your reactions should be anger and fear respectively.

The Russian – it transpires – would be accusing you of being one sandwich short of a picnic while the Swede would be warning you that now we’re really in trouble.

To get lost in three pine trees (Russian), meaning to be one sandwich short of a picnic
To be left watching the ships (Portuguese), meaning to be left with nothing

To be caught standing with your beard in the mailbox (Norwegian), meaning caught with your pants down
To be caught standing with your beard in the mailbox (Norwegian), meaning caught with your pants down

Hyndman, who has recently completed an MA in illustration at Kingston University, has created a book which illustrates and explains eight bizarre foreign idioms.

These include the Norwegian caught standing with your beard in the mailbox (meaning caught with your pants down) and the Italian to reheat the cabbage (meaning to rekindle an old flame).

To get lost in three pine trees (Russian), meaning to be one sandwich short of a picnic
To get lost in three pine trees (Russian), meaning to be one sandwich short of a picnic

Hyndman says she was inspired to write the book after a Norwegian flatmate asked her the meaning of the English phrase sorry to rain on your parade. She says, ‘I realised it’s very difficult to understand another country’s idioms – but they’re also very fascinating.’

The self-published book is available through the website http://www.kerryhyndman.co.uk/.

Now the cow is on the ice (Swedish), meaning now we’re really in trouble
Now the cow is on the ice (Swedish), meaning now we’re really in trouble
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  • Ilya November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This is incorrect:
    “To get lost in three pine trees (Russian), meaning to be one sandwich short of a picnic”.
    To get lost in three pine trees means lose one’s way in broad daylight, get lost like a babe in the woods, get mixed up in elementary things. This characterises situation, not a person. And this may happen sometimes even with quite clever people for various reasons (rush, anxiety, tiredness…).

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