Although we may not boast about it, we Indians are quite wise in the ways of the world! But this wisdom is often served with a hint of humor. And that humor manifests itself perfectly in our national language, Hindi. From smart come-backs to sarcastic remarks, read these bizarre Indian expressions that are even more hilarious when translated into English.
Literal translation: “Why use a mirror to see a bangle you’re wearing in your hand?”
Indeed, why would a lady use a mirror to observe a bangle she is wearing? Some may even question the need to observe a bangle at all!
Well, the expression refers to anything so apparent, that it does not need to be supported with a proof. Use it when someone makes you state the obvious.
Literal translation: “Ghosts that need to be kicked do not obey talks"
Anything with the word ‘ghosts’ in it sounds outright eerie. But the expression itself has nothing to do with the paranormal. It simply means that some people never learn things the easy way; they have to be ‘kicked’, taught the hard way. ‘Ghost’ is just an unpleasant metaphor for an obstinate person.
Literal translation: “What would a monkey know about the taste of ginger?”
Ginger is an essential ingredient in a variety of Indian cuisine. Well, at least that which is consumed by human beings Indeed, we don’t generally observe monkeys relishing the flavor of ginger. So, essentially, the expression is used to mock a person who may dislike something everyone else loves.
Literal translation: “Doesn’t know how to dance, but says the courtyard is crooked”
What do you do when you can’t dance, but don’t want to admit it in front of everyone? Blame the courtyard for being crooked, of course! Simply put, the saying is used for someone who makes a rather far-fetched excuse to hide his own shortcomings.
Literal translation: “Those who thunder, do not rain”
A person may be able to thunder, but how could they ever rain, you might ask? Think of politicians, who make tall promises before election time and neglect to fulfill them once in power. Or of school bullies whose threats dissolve into nothing as soon as the teacher appears. Well, making empty promises and threats is exactly what it is to thunder but not rain.
Literal translation: “Cumin in a camel’s mouth”
But camels do not feed on cumin seeds, you might think. Ever wondered why, though? Because, it would take countless kilos of cumin seeds to satisfy a camel’s enormous appetite. Likewise, the expression is used when demonstrating the vast insufficiency of something in a particular situation.
Literal translation: “Boy in arm, but chaos in the entire village”
Ever been through the process of frantically looking for something, only to discover that it has been right in front of you all along? Well, then imagine the plight of a mother searching an entire village for her little boy, who has been in her arms all this while. Although slightly exaggerated, the hilarious expression perfectly fits the situation.
Literal translation: “Black alphabets are like a buffalo”
Buffaloes and alphabets make for a truly bizarre comparison. But for an illiterate person, the bold, black words staring at him from a newspaper or any written material might as well be a jet-black buffalo. The adage was clearly coined during a time when illiteracy was high in India and the print media was still published in black-and-white.
Literal translation: “One who is burnt by hot milk even cools buttermilk before sipping it”
Buttermilk certainly does not need any cooling. But if you’ve had your mouth burned once while drinking a glass of hot milk, you surely would be reluctant to even sip buttermilk, which appears so similar to milk. Likewise, if a person has been through an ordeal once, he is bound to be extremely guarded in a similar situation. So, the next time you see someone being overcautious, don’t judge. They may have tasted their share of ‘hot milk.’
Literal translation: “A hundred blows by a goldsmith is equal to one by a blacksmith”
No, this isn’t some inside joke among craftsmen. It is merely a way of indicating the difference in the magnitude of the impact of a weak person against that of a strong one. So, while a goldsmith may need to make about hundred blows to shape his metal, a blacksmith can accomplish the same in one powerful hit with his hammer.
These quirky Indian witticisms will surely leave you marveling at the amazing country and its equally fascinating language. And now that you are acquainted with them, use these amusing expressions to flaunt your street smarts , or as Indians would call it, ‘Gyaan’.