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Genuine Internationalisms



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Genuine Internationalisms National/Colloquial Variants

The apple of discord яблуко The bone of contention. The

розбрату, яблуко чвар bone of discord



Strike the iron while it is hot make hay while the sun shines

куй залізо, доки гаряче коси, коса, поки роса



neither fish nor flesh ні Богові свічка, ні чортові

ні риба ні м'ясо шпичка; ні пава, ні ґава



to cross the Styx to turn one's toes up

канути в Лету; піти в непам'ять простягти/витягнути ноги

National/colloquial variants of international idiomatic substitutes, therefore, always differ considerably by their picturesqueness, expres­siveness and their lexical meaning. They are only semantically analogous to genuine equivalents, which may sometimes lack absolute identity in the source language and in the target language (to cross the Styx канути в Лету; to drop from the clouds з неба впасти; neither fish nor flesh ні пава ні ґава).

As can be seen, some international idiomatic expressions slightly differ in English and Ukrainian either in their structural form and lexical/idiomatic meaning or in the images making up the idioms. Thus, the idiomatic expression to fish in troubled waters has in Eng­lish the plural of waters whereas in its Ukrainian equivalent has a singular form, moreover, the component to fish is detalized and ex­tended to ловити рибку (рибу) в каламутній воді; the Society of Jesus is орден єзуїтів (but not the Order of Jesus) and the Babel of tongues is вавілонське стовпотворіння and not *Вавілон мов.

Slight divergences are also observed in several other English and Ukrainian international equivalents: the game is (not) worth the candle (singular) варта гра свічок (plural). The idiom a sound mind in a sound body, on the other hand, has a reverse position of its component parts: у здоровому тілі здоровий дух.

Therefore, each of the above-given idiomatic expressions has either a different form of a component/image, a different word order or a slightly different lexical meaning of a componental part. And yet despite the pointed out divergences such and the like idiomatic ex­pressions/phraseological units do not cease to be absolute equiva­lents in either of the two languages.

Apart from the kinds of idiomatic expressions singled out on the foregoing pages, there exists in each language a specific national layer of idiomatic/phraseological expressions comprising also prov­erbs and sayings, which are formed on the basis of componental im­ages pertaining solely to a concrete national language. Such idioms are first of all distinguished by their picturesqueness, their expres­siveness and lexical meaning of their own. Due to their national par­ticularity, these idioms/phraseologisms can not and do not have tradi­tionally established literary variants in the target language. As a re­sult, their structural form and wording in different translations may often lack absolute identity. In their rough/interlinear or word-for-word variants they mostly lose their aphoristic/idiomatic nature and thus are often subject to literary perfection: the moon is not seen when the sun shines місяця не видно, коли світить сонце/ місяця не помічають, коли світить сонце; it is a great victory that comes with­out blood велика та перемога, яку здобувають без пролиття крові or найбільша та перемога, яка здобувається без пролиття крові.

Similarly translated are some Ukrainian national phraseologisms into English: один дурень так зіпсує, що й десять розумних не направять what is spoiled by one fool can not be mended by ten wisemen; малі діти - малий клопіт, великі діти - великий клопіт small children - smaller troubles, grown-up children - grave troubles.

Isomorphic is also the existence in both the languages of a number of idiomatic expressions which are of regular sentence-type structure containing some common componental parts. Hence, their lexical meaning, nothing to say about their componental images, their picturesqueness and their expressiveness are identical as well. This is predetermined by their common source of origin in English and in Ukrainian: if you run after two hares, you will catch neither якщо побіжиш за двома зайцями, не впіймаєш жодного; a drowning man will catch (snatch) at a straw потопаючий хапається за соломинку (і за соломинку вхопиться, хто топиться); Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune Вакх утопив більше людей, ніж Нептун (вино загубило більше людей, ніж море); he who spares the rod spoils the child хто жаліє різку, той збавляє дитину.

As can be noticed from these examples, some English and Ukrainian idiomatic expressions are far from uniform lexically, struc­turally, and by their componental images, picturesqueness and ex­pressiveness. They do not always spring from the same source of origin either. Because of this a faithful translation of phraseological/




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idiomatic expressions depends upon some factors the main of which are as follows:

  1. whether the idiomatic expression in the source language and in the target language is of the same/different source of origin;

  2. whether the idiomatic expression has in the target language only one, more than one or all componental images in common;

  3. whether the componental images, when translated, are per­ceived by the target language speakers;

  4. whether the structural form of the idiomatic expressions can be retained in the target language without any transformations;

  5. whether there exists an analogous/similar in sense idiomatic expression in the target language, etc.

All these and some other factors should not be neglected when translating idiomatic/phraseological expressions from and into Eng­lish. In fact, here exists a regular interdependence between the lexi­cal meaning, the origin, the picturesqueness and the expressiveness of idioms on the one hand and the method of their translating on the other.

Taking into account these and some other factors, the following ways of faithful rendering the idiomatic/phraselogical expressions are to be identified:



1. By Choosing Absolute/Complete Equivalents

This is the method of translating by which every componental part of the source language idiom is retained in the target language unchanged. The componental parts include all notionals and also the lexically charged functionals which contribute to the lexical meaning of the idiomatic/phraseological expression. The notional components also create the main images (the picturesqueness), the expressive­ness and the figurative (connotative) meanings of idiomatic expressions. Translating with the help of equivalents is resorted to when dealing with idioms which originate from the same source in both the languages in question. These sources may be:



1) Greek or other mythology: Augean stables авгієві стайні (занедбане, занехаяне місце); Cassandra warning застереження Кассандри (застереження, на які не звертають уваги, але які збуваються); Hercules' Pillars (the Pillars of Hercules) геркулесові стовпи (Ґібралтарська протока); a labour of Sisyphus сізіфова праця (важка і марна праця); Pandora's box скринька Пандори/Пандорина скриня (джерело всіляких лих); the Trojan horse троянський кінь (прихована небезпека); Aladdin's lamp Аладдінова лампа; between Scilla and Charybdis між Сціллою і Харібдою;


  1. ancient history or literature: an ass in a lion's skin (назва однієї з байок Езопа) осел у левовій шкурі; to cross (pass) the Rubicon перейти Рубікон (прийняти важливе рішення); the die is thrown/cast жеребок кинуто (рішення прийнято); the golden age золотий вік (золоті часи); / came, I saw, I conquered прийшов, побачив, переміг;

  2. the Bible or works based on a biblical plot: to cast the first stone at one першим кинути у когось каменем; to cast pearls be­fore swine розсипати перла перед свиньми; the golden calf золотий телець/ідол; a lost sheep забпудпа вівця; the massacre (slaughter) of innocents винищення немовлят; the ten commandments десять заповідей; the thirty pieces of silver тридцять срібняків; prodigal son блудний син.

A great many absolute equivalents originate from contempo­rary literary or historical sources relating to different languages (mainly to French, Spanish, Danish, German, Italian, Arabic). English: Time is money час - гроші; self made man людина, що сама проклала собі шлях у житті; my house is my castle мій дім - моя фортеця. French: after us the deluge після нас хоч потоп; the fair sex прекрасна стать; the game is worth the candle гра варта свічок; more royalist than the king більший монархіст ніж сам король; to pull the chestnuts out of the fire вигрібати (чужими руками) каштани з вогню; one's place in the sun місце під сонцем; Spanish: blue blood блакитна кров; the fifth column (introduced in English by E. Hemingway)* п'ята колона; to tilt at the windmills (introduced by Cervantes) воювати з вітряками; Italian: Dante's inferno Дантове пекло; finita la commedia ділу кінець; Arabic: Aladdin's lamp лампа Аладдіна; German: da ist der Hundbegraben ось де собака заритий; Sturm und Drang буря і натиск.

Some mots belonging to prominent English and American au­thors have also turned into regular idiomatic expressions. Due to their constant use in belles-lettres they have become known in many languages. Especially considerable is the amount of Shakespearean mots: better a witty fool than a foolish wit краще дотепний дурень, ніж дурний дотеп; cowards die many times before their deaths боягузи вмирають багато разів; something is rotten in the state of Denmark, etc. не все гаразд у Данському королівстві; vanity fair (J. Bunyan) ярмарок марнославства/суєти; to reign in hell is better than to serve in heaven (J. Milton) краще панувати в пеклі, ніж слугувати в раю;

* First used by Emilio Mola Vidal, a nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War.


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the banana republic {О. Henry) бананова республіка; the last of the Mohicans останній з могікан; to bury a hatchet (F. Cooper) закопати томагавк (укласти мир); the almighty dollar (W. Irving) всемогутній долар; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today ніколи не відкладай на завтра те, що можна зробити сьогодні; the execution of the laws is more important than the making of them (T. Jefferson) закони виконувати важче, ніж їх створювати/писати; the iron heel (J. London) залізна п'ята (ярмо); gone with the wind(M. Mitchell) пішло за вітром/знесено вітром; fftecold war(W. Lippamn) холодна війна; Iron Curtain (W. Churchill) залізна завіса, silent majority (Pres.Nixon), etc.

Translating with the help of monoequivalents, as the absolute equivalents are sometimes called, is very often made use of when dealing with the sentence idioms containing the subject, the predi­cate, and some other parts of the sentence, though some minor al­terations in their structure/word order may not be excluded altogether. Such alterations, however, do not change either the denotative mean­ing or the componental images, the picturesqueness, expressiveness or connotative meaning of idioms: appetite comes while eaf/пдапетит приходить під час їжі; kings go mad and the people suffer from it королі божеволіють, а народ страждає (cf. пани скубуться, а в мужиків чуби тріщать); the last drop makes the cup run over остання краплина переповнює чашу; let the cock crow or not, the day will come співатиме півень, чи ні, а день настане; money is the sinews of war гроші - «м'язи» війни; of two evils choose the least із двох лих вибирай менше; out of the mouths of babies speaks the truth (wisdom) устами немовлят говорить істина/мудрість; the pen is mightier than the sword перо могутніше за меч; Caesar's wife must be beyond suspicion (Caesar) Цезарова дружина не повинна бути під підозрою/ повинна бути поза підозрою; the invasion of armies is resisted, the invasion of ideas is not (Hugo) вторгненню армій можна чинити опір, вторгненню ідей - ніколи, attic salt/wit дотепи, тонка насмішка, etc.

As has been said, the target language variants of phraseologi­cal monoequivalents may sometimes slightly differ in their structure or in the order of words from the source language idioms (cf. let the cock crow or not співатиме півень чи ні). These minor changes in the structural form, however, do not influence in any way the meaning and the expressiveness or picturesqueness of absolute equivalents in the target language.

Not only regular idioms but also many so-called standardized word-combinations, which may often originate in the two languages

from a common source, can be translated by absolute equivalents. Due to this, they retain in the target language the semantic identity and the componental structure of the source language units: to give help подавати/надавати допомогу; to win/gain a victory здобути/ здобувати перемогу; to make an attempt зробити спробу; to throw light проливати світло, etc.

Standardized word-combinations, as will be shown below, can also be translated in some other ways, which is an obvious testimony to the unchangeable inconsistency of the way identified as «translation by means of loans» («кальки», «калькування»),



2.Translation of Idioms by Choosing Near Equivalents

The meaning of a considerable number of phrase idioms and sentence idioms originating in both languages from a common source may sometimes have, unlike absolute equivalents, one or even most of their components different, than in the target language. Hence, the quality of their images is not identical either, though not necessarily their picturesqueness and expressiveness (if any): baker's/printer's dozen чортова дюжина; the devil is not so black as he is painted не такий дідько/чорт страшний, як його малюють; a lot of water had flown/run under the bridge багато води спливло відтоді; love is the mother of love любов породжує любов; too much knowledge makes the head bald від великих знань голова лисіє; in broad daylight серед білого дня; as short as a dog's tail короткий, як осінній день; as pale as paper блідий мов стіна, measure twice, cut once сім раз одміряй, один раз одріж.

The slight divergences in the near equivalents as compared with the source language idioms can manifest themselves also in some other aspects, as for example:


  1. in the structure of the target language variant (cf. to make a long story short сказати коротко);

  2. in the omission (or adding) of a componental part in the target language (cf. a lot of water had run under the bridge since then багато води спливло відтоді);

  3. in the substitution of a feature (or image) of the source lan­guage phraseological/idiomatic expression for some other (more fit­ting or traditionally expected) in the target language: as pale as paper блідий мов стіна; to know smth. as one knows his ten fingers знати як свої п'ять пальців; everything is good in its season все добре в свій час (cf. добра ложка до обіду);

  4. in the generalization of the features of the source language idiomatic expression: one's own flesh and bone рідна кровинка;


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e) in the concretization of some features of the original: a voice in the wilderness mac волаючого в пустелі; you can not catch an old bird with chaff старого горобця на полові не впіймаєш; to follow like St. Anthony's рід ходити (за кимось) як тінь/переслідувати когось.

Similar componental substitutions, both semantic and struc­tural, can be observed in regular standardized collocations and in com­parative proverbs or saying as: to do harm завдати шкоди; to do one's duty виконувати свій обов'язок; to throw/shed lightпроливати світло; (as) busy as a bee працьовитий, мов бджола; (as) slippery as an eel слизький як в'юн; as cool as a cucumber незворушний, абсолютно спокійний; golden opportunity чудова можливість, toshed crocodile's tears плакати крокодилячими слізьми.

Therefore, faithful translation may be achieved by different meth­ods. Moreover, it must be evident now that «translating by means of loans» may refer to any method of rendering phraseologisms/idioms which are or may become regular loans in the target language.

In other words, translation of idiomatic expressions «by means of loans» does not always fully justify the essence of the term as such.



3. Translation by Choosing Genuine Idiomatic Analogies

An overwhelming majority of English idiomatic expressions have similar in sense units in Ukrainian. Sometimes these lexically corre­sponding idiomatic expressions of the source language may also contain easily perceivable for the target language speakers combina­tions of images as well as similar or identical structural forms. These idiomatic expressions, naturally, are in most cases easily given corresponding analogies in the target language. As a matter of fact, such expressions are sometimes very close in their connotative (meta­phorical) meaning in English and Ukrainian as well. Any common or similar traits of idiomatic expressions are the main proof of their being genuine analogies. The latter in each of the two languages comprise also proverbs and sayings as well as the so-called standardized and stable collocations: he that mischief hatches mischief catches хто іншим лиха бажає, сам лихо має/хто іншим яму копає, сам у неї потрапляє; to have the ready tongue за словом у кишеню не лізти; to keep body and sole годе^елжити надголодь/насилу зводити кінці з кінцями; like mistress, like maidяблуко від яблуні недалеко падає; there is no use crying over spilt milk що з воза впало, те пропало; bear a dead horse товкти воду в ступі.

Many of such and the like idiomatic expressions may often have two and more analogous by sense variants in the target lan-

guage. The choice of an analogy rests then with the translator and is predetermined by the style of the text: not for love or money ні за що в світі/ні за які скарби в світі; don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs не вчи вченого; не вчи рибу плавати; яйця курку не вчать, etc.; he that lies down with dogs must rise up with fleas з ким поведешся, того і наберешся; скажи мені, хто твій друг, і я скажу тобі, хто ти; a crooked stick throws a crooked shadow який Сава, така й слава/який батько, такий син, яка хата, такий тин; don't cross the bridges before you come to them не поспішай поперед батька в пекло; не кажи гоп, доки не перескочиш; first catch your hare then cook him не скуби, доки не зловиш; скажеш «гоп», як перескочиш. The number of analogous (similar by sense) expressions for an idiom in the target language may reach a regular row as it is the case with the Ukrainian phraseological expression і на сонці є плями/людини без вад не буває. This idiom may have the following substitutes in different contextual environments: every man has a fool in his sleeve; every man has his faults; every bean has its black; every man has his weak side; Homer sometimes nods/sleeps; no man is wise at all times; it is a good horse that never stumbles; a horse stumbles that has four legs, etc.



4. Translating Idioms by Choosing Approximate Analogies Some source language idiomatic and stable expressions may have a peculiar nature of their componental parts or a peculiar combi­nation of them and thus form nationally peculiar expressiveness and picturesqueness of componental images. The latter constitute some hidden meaning, which is mostly not quite explicit and comprehensi­ble, not transient enough for the foreigner to catch it.

As a result, there exist no genuine phraseological analogies for the units in the target language. Since it is so, their lexical meaning can be expressed by means of only approximate analogies or through explication, i.e., in a descriptive way. These analogies are only to a slight degree similar to the source language idioms, although they may be no less picturesque and expressive than the source language variants: kind words butter no parsnips годувати байками солов'я; to lose one's breath кидати слова на вітер; to make a cat's paw of something чужими руками жар вигрібати; a joint in one's armour ахіллесова п'ята (вразливе місце); the sow loves bran better than roses кому що, а курці просо; more power to your elbow ні пуху, ні луски!; to come off scot free вийти сухим з води; to be finger and thumb водою не розлити (cf. нерозлийвода); to be from Missouri




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(Amer.) вірити тільки своїм очам; it is six and half a dozen не вмер Данило, так болячка задавила; what's Hecuba to me моя хата скраю (я нічого не знаю); to get the blues місця собі не знаходити/ сумувати, etc.

No need to emphasize that selection of approximate analogies for a translator is no easy task, as the source languages idioms/ phraseologisms often bear some characteristics of a language's traits having no correspondence in the target language. Cf.: The answer's a lemon так не буде/так не вийде.

Many idioms have obscure origin/etymology and selecting of approximate equivalents as any other corresponding semantic vari­ants often requires a linguistic investigation on the part of the transla­tor. For example: to be in the cart means to be closed in a cage as a convict (for some crime) and be exposed to general scorn of one's compatriots (as in old times in England). It may be translated into Ukrainian as бути в стані/ситуації хоч круть хоч верть; потрапити в безвихідь.


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