Traditionally celebrated on the occasion of the feast of St. Jerome, the translator of the Bible and thus the patron saint of translators, efforts have been ongoing to officially recognize International Translation Day worldwide and in fact this past May, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution declaring Sept. 30 as International Translation Day, in a draft resolution signed by 11 countries, including Turkey.
Therefore, in celebration of this year’s International Translation Day, I have taken the honor to handpick and translate 10/some of the most characteristic and perhaps comical idioms, proverbs and sayings you may come across in your travels throughout Turkey and navigating through Turkish.
Nazar değmesin – Don’t let the evil eye touch you
Translated as the “evil eye,” the word “nazar” refers to the belief that bad luck or misfortune can come as a result of envious or admiring gazes from others. As a result, the practice of hanging a “nazar boncuğu,” aka an evil eye bead, has become a steadfast tradition to safeguard homes, vehicles and even people from unfortunate circumstances. In conversation however, you will frequently come across the tradition of uttering the proverb “nazar değmesin,” which means, don’t let the evil eye touch you. You may even be told the phrase when you offer overt praise to someone’s good fortune or circumstance.
Alın yazısı – It is written on your forehead
Translated in English, “alın yazısı,” literally means “What is written on your forehead,” but what it refers to is the widespread belief in Turkey that your destiny is predetermined, similar to the English idiom for when a particular fate “is written in the stars.”
Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır – A cup of coffee has a 40-year memory
A true testament to the importance placed on Turkish coffee for Turks, the proverb, “Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır,” is a proverb whose literal translation is, “A cup of coffee will be remembered for 40 years.” But what is actually infers is that partaking in a cup of Turkish coffee with a Turk means you will share a 40-year friendship.
Dost acı söyler – A friend says what hurts
The proverb “Dost acı söyler,” which translates into English as “A friend says what hurts,” means that a real friend tells the bitter truth and it is used when someone needs to soften the blow of having to deliver or receive unfortunate news from a close buddy.
Tuzu kuru – His/her salt is dry
The idiom “Tuzu kuru,” which literally translates to “his/her salt is dry,” means that someone is financially well-off, or as the English equivalent would say, “sitting pretty.”
Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu – What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage
This particular Turkish idiom, “Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu,” is certainly one of the most perplexing, literally translates to “What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage?” Without aiming to decipher the words, and their placement, the meaning in the culture that uses it is what matters most and in this case, this statement is used to point out inconsistencies in one’s behavior or words.
Eşek hoşaftan ne anlar? – What does a donkey know about compote?
While the meaning is the same, only the animals and items discussed vary in the Turkish idiom “Eşek hoşaftan ne anlar?” which translates to “What does a donkey know about compote?” and its English equivalent “casting pearls before swine.” Both capture the notion of offering something valuable or good to someone who would be completely unaware of its value.
Armut, ağacın dibine düşer – A pear drops to the bottom of its own tree
The saying “Armut, ağacın dibine düşer,” which best translates to “A pear drops to the bottom of its own tree” is basically the Turkish equivalent of the English idiom “a chip off the old block” and refers to the generalization that children usually turn out like their parents.
Pireyi deve yapmak – Don’t turn a flea into a camel
The Turkish idiom “Pireyi deve yapmak,” which translates into “Don’t turn a flea into a camel” is the equivalent to the English idiom of “making a mountain out of a molehill” and refers to overreacting to and exaggerating a minor issue.
Şeytanın bacağını kırmak – Breaking the Devil’s Leg
A similar idiom to “Şeytanın bacağını kırmak,” which translates to “Breaking the Devil’s Leg” in English would be “getting the show on the road” as this idiom is used to denote starting something you haven’t been able to somehow for a long time or similarly to travel somewhere you have been unable to get to.
Maydanoz olma – Don’t be a parsley
One of the more recent idioms to surface in Turkish is the comical “Maydanoz olma,” which in English literally as “Don’t be a parsley.” The meaning of this phrase is to mind your own business, and to unlike parsley, not stick your nose into everything.
Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi – It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter
The Turkish proverb “Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi,” which translated means “It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter,” is used to describe something that is very easy to do. Similar idioms in English would be “like a walk in the park,” “shooting fish in a barrel” or “as easy as taking candy from a baby.”
Bin pişman – A thousand regrets
The phrase “Bin pişman” which, in English meaning, “a thousand regrets,” can go both ways in Turkish in that it represents deep regret and with the added auxiliary verbs, “olmak” and “etmek” you can either be suffering from it or wishing it upon someone else.
İple çekmek – Pulling with string
The Turkish phrase “iple çekmek,” which translates into “pulling with string” is used to emphasize just how much someone is looking forward to something.
Keçileri Kaçırmak – Losing the goats
The Turkish phrase “keçileri kaçırmak,” which translates to “losing the goats,” means that someone has lost their mind, or in other words, gone completely insane. Funnily enough in English there are quite a few similar idioms such as “going bananas,” “losing one’s marbles, “to be barking mad,” “to lose the plot” or “to go stir crazy,” being just some.
Source: Daily Sabah