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6 Russian Idioms

imagen taken from the french Wikipedia at http...

No one pictured is happy about this situation. (Source: Wikipedia)

When learning a new language, idioms often present the greatest challenges to sounding like a native speaker. Idioms are those weird little phrases that you naturally pick up over time but don’t actually make literal sense. Here’s a sentence loaded with idioms: I have a soft spot for the black sheep; he’s always the underdog. If you were learning English, you could get your dictionary out and look up soft, spot, black, sheep, under, and dog, but those definitions are not going to convey the meaning of the sentence. Why, you could parse that sentence 6 ways from Sunday and it still wouldn’t make sense; if a non-native English speaker could figure it out from the dictionary alone, she’d be on cloud 9. (See how easily idioms sneak into your speech?)

I was a Russian major in college but have forgotten much of it over the years. So I’ve joined a local Russian conversation group to recapture the language I’ve lost. To celebrate, I present 6 idioms particular to Russian (with grateful acknowledgement to the award-winning Russificate blog at Russia Beyond the Headlines for augmenting my poor memory).

Белая ворона
Translation: White crow
English expression: The odd one out

Набрать в рот воды
Translation: To fill one’s mouth with water
English expression: To keep mum

Мир тесен
Translation: The world is cramped
English expression: It’s a small world

Как об стенку горох
Translation: Like throwing peas against the wall
English expression: You might as well talk to a brick wall

Лить как из ведра
Translation: To pour as if from a pail
English expression: To rain cats and dogs

Водо́й не разольёшь
Translation: You couldn’t split them apart with water
English expression: As thick as thieves

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