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Teaching Idioms as Foreign Phrases

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Does anyone teach idioms as if they were "foreign" or ancestral words/phrases that have become (re)spelled as common words of the target language?

Type 1 - Clear text transliterated directly into common target-language words
Aramaic KiSHoT + BaGaD = truth + betray. Using the ancient T-sound for the shin, Ki[T]oT BaGaD ==> (let the) CaT ouT (of the) BaG. The same KiSHoT = truth occurs in "Has the cat got your tongue?" ... usually said to a child who doesn't answer because he doesn't want to lie but also doesn't want to utter the truth. The same BaGaD = betray occurs in "left holding the bag". You have been betrayed by your friends/associates. They got away, but you are "left holding the bag".

An example of German phrase to English idiom would be Acht(ung) + (Beweg)Grund = pay attention + reason, basis, grounds (motive) ==> axe to grind. In other words, beware the motive.

Type 1b - Similar to Type 1, but the original phrase was not clear text
I'm gonna beat the "livin' daylights" outta ya < liver and lights. The liver is the most dense body part and "lights" was the OE word for lungs, the least dense body part. The meaning is figurative. The speaker does not intend to literally extract the liver and lungs.

Giving the aiyin a G/K-sound, as in 3aZa = Gaza, "kick (the) bucket" < Semitic aiyin-gimel-bet bet-aiyin-dalet-nun as in Hebrew 3aGav B'3a:DeN = to make (physical) love in Paradise. This is still a Middle-Eastern metaphor for dying.

Type 2 - A foreign language idiom that was translated into the target language
A biblical example is Job 19:20 (to escape) "by the skin of my teeth" meaning "hardly, barely, with difficulty". In Hebrew, Job said B'3or SHiNai = skin of my teeth, a pun on the Hebrew word B'QoSHi = barely, with difficulty. Compare SKiN of Teeth with SCaNT = barely enough.

Genesis 19:26 says that Lot's wife became a "pillar of salt", Hebrew NaTZiV MeLaX, because she looked backwards. Actually, we have to look at that phrase backwards to understand that she had a stroke. NaTZiV reverses to BoTZen = mud-like. Compare Greek thromBoSis and modern Hebrew SHaBaTZ = apoplexy. MeLaX is the reverse of XaLaM = strong, healthy. That is, she became paralyzed and weak.

Two examples of Latin ==> Hebrew pun ==> English translation of the pun:
(1) Latin sopor sond = sleep soundly ==>
Hebrew (li)SPoR tZoN = count sheep (to go to sleep).
(2) Latin Saccharomyces cervisae = Brewer's yeast (ancient hangover remedy) ==> Hebrew Sa3aR MiNSHaKH KeLeV = hair bite dog, i.e., "hair of the dog that bit you". Compare the Greek 3-headed dog CeRBerus.

Types 1 and 2 sometimes combine to form a redundant idiom
Example 1: "break a leg" said to an actor to wish him/her good luck. The normal term in Hebrew or Yiddish would be BRaKHa = a blessing. The pun is the Hebrew term for a knee or leg: BeReKH. Both BRaKHa and BeReHK sound like the English word "break". Hence, "break a leg" instead of "a blessing" (on your performance).

Example 2: (cold enough to) freeze the balls off a brass monkey. The Semitic clear text is P'LiTZ K'Foo = shiver frozen. Compare palsy. The Semitic pun is P'LiZ KoF = brass monkey. The transliteration into English is BaLLSk oFF. The translation of the pun into English is brass monkey.

Israel "izzy" Cohen
Petah Tikva, Israel
[email protected]

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