A fun way to learn additional vocabulary, animal expressions also allow you to learn a little bit about the culture of Luxembourg. There are hundreds of animal expressions in Luxembourgish, some clearly vestiges of old farming wisdom, others colourful caricatures of animals to describe aspects of human nature. Here’s my top 10.
10. Een Af mécht der honnert. One monkey makes a hundred.
The monkey is synonymous with a fool here and conveys the idea that fools tend to find a lot of people who imitate them. You can say this, for example, when a child, who just did something silly is immediately imitated by another. Often accompanied by eye rolling.
9. Ech si rose wéi eng Spann. I’m as angry as a spider.
Personally I’m not sure why the spider is angry, maybe just because it is not the most attractive-looking animal out there.
8. Aus enger Méck en Elefant maachen. To make a mountain out of a molehill (literally: to make an elephant out of a fly).
Don’t we all exaggerate from time to time! I know I did when I saw my first wild snake in the woods of Ontario a few weeks ago. It turned out to be a harmless garter snake, but from my dramatic account you would have thought it was a rattle snake who came this close to biting me.
7. Ech si midd/krank wéi en Hond. I’m as tired/sick as a dog.
The poor dog is taking the brunt of this expression. Use it only in informal settings, just like you probably wouldn’t say this to your boss in English either.
6. Mat den Hénger schlofe goen. To go to sleep with the chickens.
This is not to be taken literally, it just means to go to sleep early.
5. Dat war fir d’Kaz. That was for nothing (literally: that was for the cat).
I wonder if this saying comes from the disagreeable nature of some cats: you feed them, but you don’t get anything in return, so it was “for nothing”. In any case, you can use this expression next time your workout is immediately followed by eating a giant cake.
4. Wann d’Mais sat sinn, ass d’Miel batter. When the mice are full, the flour is bitter.
When you’re starving, everything tastes amazing, but when you’re full, you fail to appreciate even the best of steaks.
3. Bal, ass nach keng Maus an der Fal. Almost doesn’t mean a mouse in the trap.
Even though you might have almost caught that mouse, you still didn’t get it. This expression can be said every time you say “bal” (almost), or when you miss something by a hair’s breadth (like that train you didn’t catch).
2. E gudden Iesel stéisst sech nëmmen eemol. A good donkey bumps himself only once.
When was the last time you made a mistake not only once but twice and you said to yourself, “I can’t believe I did that again?” That’s exactly when this donkey expression comes in handy. Bumping into the edge of the bed, trusting someone you know you shouldn’t, touching that hot plate that just came out of the oven, we’re all bad donkeys at times.
1. Wann den Hond net geschass hätt, dann hätt en den Hues kritt. If the dog hadn’t pooed, he would have gotten the hare.
Another classic tale of missed opportunities. Afterwards you always know what you should or should not have done to reach your goals, but this time, you missed out. There’s also a sense of fatalism that comes with this saying since it is part of the dog’s nature to poo so there is really nothing he could have done to catch that hare.
A special mention goes out to the pig
The following expressions are very colloquial and a bit overused in Luxembourg: et schifft wéi eng Sau (it’s pissing rain), et ass kal/waarm wéi eng Sau (it’s really cold/hot), dat ass ënner aller Sau (that is shockingly unacceptable), hien ass domm wéi eng Sau (he’s stupid like a pig),… It has gotten to the point where some people will say “d’Sau” instead of “hien” when they are talking about a man, for example: d’Sau huet scho rëm verschlof (he slept in again).
Featured photo: Noel Lopez/unsplash
Copyright 2016: Liz Wenger