I love words and the convolutions of language; how we arrange and rearrange it; how we invent new ways communicate old things; how we nurture its nuances —which is where poetry comes in.
Idioms have always intrigued me. They’re short poems. One-liners created to make startling something banal and obvious. Idioms lighten things up. They renovate tired and dilapidated bits of worn truth and create more transparent windows on the world and the things we do in it.
I learned recently of a book containing a collection of international idioms which are indeed startling, funny, and fun. The book, by Jag Bhalla, is called I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, which is a Russian way of saying, “I’m not pulling your leg.”
Bhalla’s book is sure proof that humans are humorous and truthful when we dump the BS. These idioms have nothing to do with BS. They present the truth with humor and a sometimes brutal directness, but they never veer into hypocrisy.
I had some fun this past week with a few snippets from Noodles myself. The poetic tale below (enlightened by the glossary that follows) was built with an arrangement of Jag Bhalla’s idiomatic bricks (in italics).
I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears
Unable to stop being an owl
my eyes were stolen
by a piece of the moon.
I thought, what curves
and me without brakes.
It was dry firewood meets flame.
I wanted to be your leg, your goat,
Swallowed like a postman’s sock
and steaming like water for chocolate,
I was so far gone I’d completely
eaten the monkey.
I mused, if only
I could drink your lips
and we, in the midst of a
under the sway of the
ever romantic Tony Bennett
might, in the magical afternoon light
pluck the turkey.
But love means having
no time to die; although
for you I'd surely
break my horns.
Yet if one day, despite all,
the tomatoes had faded
and you were a red apricot
gone over the wall
and I took the rake
and was left nailed
I'd still hope that perhaps
(just maybe) we might
reheat the cabbage and I,
instead of being a
lonely yawning mussel
(but with fast hands),
might find that you were
once again a sweet potato
—and I’m not
hanging noodles on
Unable to stop being an owl – can’t stop flirting (Italian)
To have one’s eye stolen – to be dazzled (Japanese)
Piece of the moon – a lovely or handsome person (Hindi)
What curves, and me without brakes – street complement (Spanish, Latin America)
Dry firewood meets flame – instant attraction (Chinese)
To be someone’s leg – to be a main squeeze (Spanish, Chile)
To be a goat – partner, boyfriend, girlfriend (Spanish, Costa Rica)
To be someone’ bumblebee – sweetheart (Spanish, Chile)
Swallowed like a postman’s sock – hopelessly in love (Spanish, Colombia)
Like water for chocolate – the boiling point of one’s passion (Spanish)
To eat the monkey – to be nuts about (German)
Drink your lips – kiss (Hindi)
Buckle polish – slow dance (Spanish, Venezuela)
Pluck the turkey – make love at a window (Spanish)
Having no time to die – to be overwhelmed with work ( Hindi)
To break one’s horns – to work very hard (Spanish)
The tomatoes have faded – love is gone (Russian)
Red apricot gone over the wall – a married woman takes a lover (Chinese)
Take the rake – be dumped (French)
To leave someone nailed – to dump someone (Spanish)
Reheat the cabbage – attempt to revive a lapsed love affair (Italian)
Yawning mussel – to be amorous, horny (French)
Having fast hands – to be a womanizer (Japanese)
To be a sweet potato – to be madly in love with (Spanish, Costa Rica)
Hanging noodles on your ears – pulling your leg (Russian)