If language is a reflection of a country’s culture, then every culture seems to have its own hilarious sayings. From witty one-liners to funny proverbs, these linguistic gems reflect the history and values of a countries around the world. Put your cultural knowledge to the test and try to guess which countries these hilarious sayings and funny phrases come from! Answers are at the bottom – no peeking!
1. You can’t dance at two weddings
Literally, this means you can’t be at two places at once. In a more figurative sense, the locals of this country use it to say you can’t take up two large commitments at once. Want to be a world-class opera singer and a premier league footballer? Sorry, you can’t dance at two weddings.
2. To buy a cat in a sack
Let’s say you buy something new. You’re excited, and rush home to revel in your new purchase. Your heart sinks; it’s broken. This is the consequence of not heeding the wise warning of this phrase, which means to buy something without inspecting it first.
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3. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
This one may be more familiar. This means to get a result, you’ll have to take some decisive action to get there. We’ll give you a clue on this one: this first came from a military leader in the 1700s, when asked about the many deaths he had caused. He replied with this phrase, and thus it entered the national phraseology.
4. To slide in on a shrimp sandwich
This is one of our favourite hilarious sayings, and it means someone didn’t work for what they have. We’ll give you another clue here: this idiom originates from a country where shrimp was considered a luxury food, which is why the phrase suggests someone achieved success without putting in the work.
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5. To bring owls to Athens
This saying is used to describe an unnecessary or redundant action, like ‘taking coals to Newcastle’. You probably don’t need any other clues to guess where this one’s from.
6. God gives nuts to the man with no teeth
One of the many funny phrases that comment on the inherent irony of life? Or an observation on the lack of good dental care? You decide.
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7. Not my circus, not my monkey
Though a bit more longwinded than simply saying ‘not my problem’, its a lot more fun and smoothly rolls off the tongue. One of our favorite hilarious sayings by far.
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8. To feed the donkey sponge cake
Why should we have to settle for boring old turnips while the donkey enjoys all the cake? In a playful variation of the biblical advice regarding pearls and swine, this phrase means we shouldn’t offer special treatment to people who don’t deserve it.
9. If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you won’t catch its cub
You could think of this like ‘fortune favors the bold’, or ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Though a lot more visual, this phrase follows the same sentiment: you won’t achieve anything unless you take some risks.
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10. If it’s a goose, it should be fat
Whatever you’re doing, experience it to the fullest.
- Israel (a Yiddish phrase)
- Germany – ‘die katze im sack kaufen’, but it also exists in Latvian, Polish, Norwegian, and Swedish!
- France – from François de Charette: ‘on ne saurait faire d’omelette sans casser des œufs’
- Sweden – ‘Att glida in på en räkmack‘
- Greece – It humorously suggests bringing owls, which were on the Athenian silver coins, to Athens. Taking these coins where they were already abundant indicated a futile or pointless endeavor.
- Arabia – this is an old Arabic saying
- Poland – ‘Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy‘
- Portugal – ‘Alimentar um burro a pão-de-ló’
- Japan – ‘虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず’
- Hungary – ‘Ha lúd, legyen kövér’