Idioms are hard.

The Atlantic recently published something that’s right up my alley: a foreign idiom quiz! Featuring examples from Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and many more.

Before the quiz, there was this quote from Jay Bhalla, author of an idiom book called I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, which I liked and was just like, you can say that again (idiom!? haha):

“It’s just fascinating that every culture has them,” Bhalla told me, notwithstanding the fact that idioms are “often the least logical way to communicate a thought.”

No Korean in the mix, but here are the Chinese and French questions:


↑ This took me a while to process, but then it came to me. Horse horse tiger tiger = 马马虎虎 (Mǎmǎhǔhǔ). This is one of those things that I know in speech and listening, but not in writing…definitely did not realize there was horse and tiger involved.

Anyway, I watched a video clip explaining this idiom, and apparently the “story” behind it is this: a man in ancient times was drawing a tiger, then his friend came along and told him to draw a horse…so the artist guy drew a horse body onto the tiger head he started…and well, his sons who saw his drawing got real confused in the wild…one tried to ride a tiger thinking it was a horse (and ended up getting eaten), the other shot a horse with an arrow thinking it was a tiger. Oy. That’s why 马马虎虎 means so-so, but also maybe a tad more negative, more like sloppy, careless.


↑ I’m not sure why I picked B, especially since potatoes feel pretty dim-witted…but anyway the phrase is lache pas la patate and it means something along the lines of don’t give up, hang in there. It’s apparently an old adage that serves as a “testament to the resiliency and enduring spirit of the Cajun people,” starting from their exile from Nova Scotia in the late 1700s to present-day struggles with hurricanes and oil spills.


So that was pretty hard. Care to try?


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