‘Sweet tooth’ and ‘running nose’: 10 English idioms that are better not to translate literally

In Russian language we have long been accustomed to “put teeth on the shelf” and “keep your mouth shut”, but the English is more complicated. If you do not know idioms, it seems that some phrase is absolutely insane. On the website Skyeng Magazine analyzed 10 English expressions that contain the names of body parts — but they mean quite another.

'Сладкий зуб' и 'бегущий нос': 10 английских идиом, которые лучше не переводить дословно

Photo: Depositphotos

To have a sweet tooth

Literally: to have a sweet tooth

Actually: to be susceptible to the sweet

Though the official medicine of such diagnosis does not exist, dentists often have to deal with such “sick”. To have a sweet tooth — to love sweets, always buy them to eat cake — well, you understand. It is not surprising that such people often have to visit the dentist, because the tooth most often occurring tooth decay.

By the way, there is another variation of the expression — to give/get a sweet tooth. It is used if sugar cravings is only temporary (for example, ate candy, and so pulled on the chocolate in large quantities).

Dentist: Sweet Tooth, you need a filling.
Tooth: Make it chocolate.

Dentist: Sweet tooth you need a filling.
Tooth: Let it be chocolate.

Pull someone’s leg

Literally: to pull somebody’s leg

In fact: to play a trick on someone

This idiom originated in England in the 1800-ies. It was then that the local street robbers began to actively use the wire stretched it so that the man tripped and sprained his leg. And as he lay, and took away the victim’s valuables. Over time, people began to organize such podlyanki without malice — just to put each other in bad light. Gradually, the phrase has acquired the meaning of “to play somebody to play somebody.”

The sharks from “Jaws” didn’t really mean any harm: they were just pulling others’ legs.
Shark from “Jaws” nobody wanted to cause harm: they were just goofing around.

Catch someone’s eye

Literally: to catch someone’s eye

In fact: to attract someone’s attention

If we translate the phrase literally, to mind immediately come to the scene of an unsuccessful operation on his eyes, which became fatal for Olivia from “final destination 5”. But actually everything is much more innocent: the idea is to draw the eye of another person.

And the expression is used in a romantic context. When a man wants a girl at the next table is interested in them, he can smile, to wave, to do something unusual to catch her eye to get her attention. Please note: the phrase catch my eye has a slightly different meaning (“to Fred”) and frequently used in the context of inanimate objects.

The daughter of Black Beard immediately caught Jack Sparrow’s eye. His good one, at least.
The daughter of Blackbeard was immediately attracted the sight of Jack Sparrow. At least, his one good eye.

Runny/running nose

Literally: a running nose

In fact: a runny nose

Americans use this expression to mean “cold” when the nasal flow (and in the period of seasonal colds run) snot. It is necessary to distinguish a runny nose and running nose. The first phrase describes the common cold as a common symptom of the disease. Running nose has the same meaning, but refers to the specific case of the symptom that we are seeing right now. The second option is rare, since it is perceived as too direct reference to the natural reaction of a sick person.

What’s the fastest thing on your face? Your nose. It’s always running.
What is the fastest part of your face? Nose. He “runs”.

To have a finger in every pie

Literally: to stick his finger in every pie

In fact: sticking your nose

How often in his childhood, sensing in the kitchen the smell of freshly baked pie, we were seizing the moment and, while no one saw us, put your finger into it to try. But if pies were few, we had to taste (or make a hole with your finger) all of them — to understand what is the filling better.

Hence the phrase in English “to have a finger in every pie” or simply “to be in charge of everything”, “poke their nose”. Idiom is appropriate when someone often intervenes in a situation which did not concern him, and it annoys others. The phrase, incidentally, was used by Shakespeare in the play “Henry VIII”.

The devil speed him! No man’s pie is freed from this ambitious finger!
Damn him! In any pie he sticks his ambitious finger.

To be caught red-handed

Literally: to be caught with red hands

Actually: to be caught red-handed

The phrase refers to the occasion when the offender is caught at the scene with blood on his hands. In this context, it came into use since the fifteenth century in Scotland: it was said in the course of litigation. Since then, the meaning of the phrase has expanded, and now you say “caught with red hands”, even if you just noticed your cheat sheet on the exam.

The horror movie crew needed lots of fake blood to shoot murder scenes. Since they were on a tight budget, they stole 20 bottles of ketchup from the nearest store. They were caught red-handed in the park by the police.
The crew of a horror film had a lot of fake blood to film scenes of murder. Since the budget they were small, they stole 20 bottles of ketchup from a nearby store. The police caught them red handed in the Park nearby.

To put foot in mouth

Literally: to put foot in mouth

Actually: to blurt out without thinking

No, we are not talking about any foot fetish. The expression is used if you said something wrong and put yourself in a bad light. Is a variation of that phrase — to put one’s foot in it (this is if the person is into something vlyapyvaetsya in direct or figurative sense of the word). To put one’s foot in one’s mouth a bit more precisely: this expression describes how people can embarrass themselves, something sbolton. So be careful and, if possible, do not put your foot in your mouth.

When he was kissing her feet and suddenly said that they tasted like cheese, he put foot in mouth in every sense of the word.
When he kissed her feet and said suddenly that they taste like cheese, he put his foot in his mouth in several ways.

To be all thumbs

Literally: to have some thumbs

Actually: to be clumsy

On stage idiom, which in the XXI century acquired a completely new meaning. Traditionally it was used to describe a clumsy person, whose hands grow from one place. Agree, wouldn’t those who have all ten fingers would be great.

But in the era of smartphones and instant messengers, this expression can become a compliment. You know, with what lightning speed, you can type messages on the smartphone with the thumb of one hand?

He didn’t know how to use a milling machine properly so now he is literally all thumbs.
He didn’t know how to use a milling machine, and now he’s literally just your thumbs.

To see eye-to-eye

Literally: to look in the eye

Actually have similar views

If you want to order pizzas for dinner and your boyfriend or girlfriend would prefer the chicken and vegetables, cooked for a couple, that means you are into each other’s eyes do not look, or you don’t see eye to eye on this matter. The phrase to see eye-to-eye is used when you source have the same view of things or agree on some reason.

The world’s tallest man said that he broke up with his girlfriend because they never saw eye-to-eye.
The world’s tallest man said that he broke up with his girlfriend due to the fact that they did not look each other in the eye.

To give somebody the cold shoulder

Literally: to give somebody a cold shoulder

In fact: it is cold to treat someone

According to legend, this idiom has its roots in Shakespeare’s day. Say, while in England there was a custom: welcome guests were treated to hot food, and even visitors who were not so happy, gave a cold shoulder any meat that’s available hosts. The shoulder was very cold and hard parts of the animal — so the people were given to understand that the warm welcome they should not count.

According to another version, the history of this expression is much simpler. Sometimes people, to which we do not want to talk and turns — we have only to look at his shoulder.

When Elsa froze her entire kingdom, all of the inhabitants felt they were given the cold shoulder.
When Elsa froze the entire Kingdom, its inhabitants felt that it gave them a cold reception.