Popular Sayings from around the World

Popular Sayings from around the World | One Hour Translation

It was believed in ancient times that crocodiles wooed their victims in by making a strange whimpering sound; a sound very similar to crying.

‘Crocodile Tears’

It was believed in ancient times that crocodiles wooed their victims in by making a strange whimpering sound; a sound very similar to crying. However, today we know that crocodile tears are a watery secretion that maintains that dampness on their eyes while they’re out of water. Because the crocodile’s lacrimal and salivary glands are very close together and are constantly being stimulated, when the crocodile is eating it looks like it’s crying.

‘The Walls Have Ears’

In France during the second half of the 16th century, Catherine de’ Medici arranged to have acoustic conduits secreted into the palace walls so that she could hear conversations in other rooms; she wanted to know if people were conspiring against her.

‘To Be Conspicuous by One’s Absence’

It was traditional at ancient Roman funerals to display portraits of the deceased persons’ ancestors. One of the assassins of Julius Caesar was Junia - the sister of Brutus and widow of Cassius – and at her funeral, the portraits of these two criminals were nowhere to be seen; a fact which quickly became very obvious.

‘The Coast Is Clear’

The Spanish Mediterranean coast was consistently under attack during mediaeval times from the inhabitants of North Eastern Africa. This meant that cities and coastal villages were always in danger, so many watchtowers were built along the coastline. Residents would sit in these watchtowers to keep a watchful eye on the sea, and if an enemy was spotted the sentinel would yell: ‘There are Moors along the coast.’

‘Ir De Punta En Blanco’ - literally means ‘with white tips’. The English translation is ‘in full armor’.

In chivalrous lingo of days gone by, this expression was applied to knights’ weapons. Because they were made from polished steel, they shone in the sunlight with impressive whiteness. And so, in Spanish it was said that the Knights’ rode ‘with white tips’.

‘Poner las manos en el fuego’ - means ‘to put one’s hands in the fire’.

This saying is from olden days when God’s judgement was used for passing sentences during trials. During these ‘trials’ the accused was forced to take some sort of fire, like a red hot iron, in their hands. If they were able to withstand the trial without any injury, or just an insignificant injury, then they were considered innocent. As time passed, the saying began to be used figuratively, meaning to express unwavering support for another person.

‘Third Time Lucky!’

We believe this phrase has its origin from one-on-one fighting, whereby the winner was the person who either performed best during three rounds or knocked their opponent over three times. We have also found an example in the legal realm whereby, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the penalty of death was automatic for a person caught stealing the third time round.

‘Ponerse las botas’ - literally means ‘to put on boots’. The English translation is ‘to feather one’s own nest’.

In olden times, the type of shoe worn by a person indicated their social class. Common folk wore low heeled shoes, while only the rich and powerful knights wore boots. When a person’s status rose to the point of wearing boots, other people would say ‘he put on boots’.