Translation musings: Are you sweating carrots yet?

Jul 19, 2016 | First Edition Translations, Language, Miscellaneous

swimming otter

“Me?! What have I got to do with any of this?”

The long awaited summer has finally made its way to England. Whoop whoop! We can now plan for great BBQs with cool beverages and can fish out our crumpled summer dresses from the bottom of the drawer. We can spend some quality time outdoors, at riversides, in parks and in the outside seating areas of pubs. Temperatures are rising and this week they are nearing 30 °C… All lovely, isn’t it? But, there is a downside to these summer perks: we might be sweating buckets!

Or, as the Dutch say: sweating carrots (“peentjes zweten”). As one of our Dutch translators tells me, there are three different explanations for this unusual expression. According to the first one, the shape of sweat droplets remind some people of the shape of carrots. Others think it comes from the fact that people who sweat a lot tend to have a reddish skin colour, so in effect they look like carrots. And last but not least, some say that “peentjes” (= carrots) was originally “pintjes”, which means pints. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

There is another saying in Dutch which is much more endearing if you ask me: “zweten als een otter”. Yes, you guessed it right, otter means otter in English. So there you go, you might be sweating like an otter right now! How cute is that?

Dutch is not the only language which compares the amount of sweating or the looks of the perspiring person to an animal. In Hungarian we say “izzadok, mint egy ló”. The expression often heard in the scorching summer months of Hungary literally means “I am sweating like a horse”. Germans compare their perspiration to that of a monkey: “ich schwitze wie ein Affe”. In French, one might say “suer comme un bœuf”, i.e. “to sweat like an ox”, although there is a much more common French expression: “je sue comme un cochon”. It means the same as the Finnish “hikoilen kuin pieni sika”, the Bulgarian “потя се като прасе” and the Russian “я потею как свинья”. These sentences all mean that “I am sweating like a pig”.

Uhh… Let me just turn the aircon on.


(source of image: Laurent Renault)