Cats and proverbs in different languages

Published 12th November 2010
post thumbnail

At first sight, cats and languages might seem two very different fields with little in common, but they are actually more related than expected. Cats indeed play a significant role in the idioms of various languages. Let’s just consider a few here.

How many English sayings with cats can you think of? Have a go and then try to picture them in your mind, some are really fun!
All cats are grey in the dark – Physical appearance is not that important.
A cat has nine lives – Cats can survive many accidents because they are able to land on their feet without injury.
It’s raining cats and dogs – It’s raining very heavily.


However, let’s not forget other languages. Cats play an important role in the following sayings too. Some are the same as in English, some are different and some use different animals to convey the same concept:
When the cat’s away, the mice will play. (English)
Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent. (French)
Wenn die Katze weg ist, spielen die Mäuse. (German)
Quando il gatto non c’è, i topi ballano. (Italian)
Mice seem to be partying in every language when cats are not there chasing them!

In the following example, different languages use different animals to convey the same concept. Let’s start with the French saying ‘Avoir un chat dans la gorge’. It literally means ‘to have a cat in the throat’ and this happens when you are ill and cannot swallow properly. The Germans believe frogs are more appropriate for that and so they say ‘Einen Frosch im Hals haben’.
In addition, French cats seem to be able to forecast the weather: ‘Quand le chat se débarbouille, bientôt le temps se brouille’ (When the cat washes behind both ears, it will snow). Unfortunately, I must confess that I have been observing my cats for years and they keep forecasting snow in August!

Last but not least, the picture you see below is a painting made in 1559 by Pieter Brugel the Elder. It’s called Netherlandish Proverbs and it depicts over 100 Dutch sayings. There is a cat somewhere in the painting as a symbol of a Dutch proverb that literally means ‘To bell the cat’, which means ‘to be indiscreet about plans that should be secret’. Now, can you spot the cat in the picture? Good luck with it!



disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155


TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

International French Fries Day

Today is one of the best day of the year: the international French Fries Day. But let’s find out something about most people’s favourite guilty pleasure. Apparently, French fries are not French at all. Their origin can be tracked back to Belgium, where potatoes were allegedly being fried in the late-1600s. The legend says that …

Read More

Iceland – The Land of Ice and Fire

Iceland, the land of ice and fire, counted 350,710 inhabitants in 2016. The crazy thing is that, last summer, Iceland hosted 2 million tourists. Why are there so many people willing to visit this Nordic island? Here are some pieces of information that might interest you. Iceland has a very rich culture and a breath-taking scenery …

Read More
Get a quote today