By Adriana Adarve – Owner of Adarve Translations
My love for languages was born when I was in my mid teens. English was mandatory all throughout high school, while French was mandatory the last two years of it. I soon discovered that not only did I like languages, they became my passion! A passion that has never left me.
Up to the moment when I started learning languages, reading was what I liked to do most outside school and any other mandatory things that were part of my life. Today, languages are still my passion, a passion that has provided me the joy, drive and determination necessary to work with them for a living, while reading has remained my most beloved hobby.
Some people might call reading a hobby; some might call it a passion. I simply say that I am passionate about my hobby.
I started reading at a very young age. At first, I read all sorts of books that fell into my hands. I enjoyed them all though I was not very selective. As time went on, I started switching—slowly but surely—to historical fiction and novels. During the past seven years this is the genre I exclusively read. Not only does it provide me with entertainment and an escape from this hectic, modern world, but it also gives me a wealth of information on how people from centuries ago used to live, love, learn, struggle and, most interesting of all, speak.
During my late teens, I started reading a very long book without knowing that it was, in fact, a saga. The book’s title was The Immigrants, by Howard Fast. It held me spellbound for days on end. It left a very deep impression within me, something I have never been able to erase from my mind—not that I have ever tried to anyway—though I only learned quite recently what the profound impact of such an experience had really been in my life. After having read all sorts of genres for the longest time in my life, for the past several months I have found myself to be drawn back to sagas, specifically historical sagas.
Even though the books I read are, for the most part, set in England, I also read books set in other countries. Lately, I have then been reading books set in Germany, as well as New Zealand, and at the present moment, I am on my second historical saga set in New Zealand in the late 1800s, early 1900s.
It is quite interesting to me to notice how the English language I am used to—British English or American English—is rather different when the book I am reading has been written by an author from New Zealand who delivers a wonderful rendering of how life used to be in her country back in the time.
One of the things that has aroused a deep interest within me while reading these books—the Promises to Keep series, by Shayne Parkinson—is the tremendous number of expressions, colloquialisms and sayings that I find in them.
Another thing I started noticing too, was how, each time I find an expression I had not heard or seen before, my mind starts wondering, not only what the expression really means in English, but, also, how could I say that same expression in my own language, Spanish, or in French; or, whether the same exact expression already exists in Spanish or French.
It is here then that I realize that my passion for languages and the hobby I am passionate about have found each other to make my life more complete.
I have thus found myself doing some research on the expressions I read in my books, only to realize that most of these expressions have no direct translation, and a lot of time not even equivalent, in other languages. Only few of them have equivalent ones, even if the same elements accompanying the English expression are not used in the foreign language in which a translation might be sought.
To “fly off the handle,” means to lose control, or to lose one’s temper, and refers to the uncontrolled way a loose axe-head flies off from its handle. There is no exact equivalent saying for this expression in Spanish or French that has to do with an axe or its handle. The Spanish equivalent—perder los estribos—has to do with the horseman’s feet getting off the stirrups when riding, and the French equivalent—sortir de ses gonds—has to do with a hinged element getting loose or completely off its hinges.
To “put the cart before the horse” means to do things in the wrong order, or to have them confused and mixed up. There are several Spanish equivalents for this expression, but I will only give two here since not all of them have to do with animals: poner el arado delante de los bueyes—which means to put the plough in front of the ox—and vender la leche antes the ordeñar la vaca—whichs means to sell the milk before milking the cow. The French equivalent—mettre la charrue avant les bœufs—is closer to the Spanish one in the sense of having to do with oxen instead of with a horse.
To have “an elephant in the room” means that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people are either ignoring or not addressing. There is no idiom in Spanish or French for this expression. Thus, when confronted with it in either language, an explanation of its meaning needs to be given, instead of trying to force a non-existing expression in the foreign language.
To “have a monkey on one’s back” has two meanings in English, but I have chosen to use the one referred to more specifically in the historical books I read—a state of persistent distress or worry or the cause of such a state. In this particular sense there is no equivalent saying in either Spanish or French, and its meaning needs to be explained rather than translated directly.
There are many other sayings and phrases that I discover everyday in the books I read, but which explanation or translation would make this article longer than originally intended.
Nonetheless, being a newly discovered “hobby” to me now, I will do my best to bring you more of these expressions in future blogs, not only for your enjoyment, but also for our mutual discovery of wonderful and interesting marvels!
Hoping to leave you all cock-a-hoop for more on English colloquialisms and sayings,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Author: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual.