Good wines and keep your eyes fourteen? 7 funny idioms and why to use them (PART 1)

Have you ever tried to translate an idiom from your native language to someone? The translation sounds surreal, doesn’t it? Yet, you use this idiom very often in your native language without even noticing how strange it might be!

Today, I’m going to show you 7 common idioms we use in Greek. You’re going to learn their meaning, where and how to use it. You're going to hear them too! (Click on the audio at the end of this post).

If you’re already convinced about their importance and you’re curious to learn them immediately, feel free to skip this part and read below.

If you want to learn a bit more about why and how it’s great to use expressions and idioms in language learning, the next few paragraphs might interest you.

It's true we usually don’t even notice expressions and idioms when we speak our native language; this is the reason why they are so important if you want to sound more natural as a learner.

Why does this happen? Well, imagine you’re talking to your friend, describing your day; You won’t simply go from one event to the next or use all words literally - like a robot. Of course not!

Language express so much more than plain, actual facts and we’re creative enough to use multiple meanings in one word or sentence.

When we learn a language however, the first vocabulary is indeed the basic one, which helps us talk about basic needs and wants. As we progress in the language learning, it is common to wonder about many expressions and idioms native speakers use.

It is also common to learn these expressions from our friends or by overhearing conversations on the street (I’ve learned a great deal of French expressions in France that way and you can read about it here!) but it is uncommon to read about them in a course book  - even though they appear so often in everyday conversations.

So let’s see these 7 idioms, shall we?

1. Καλά κρασιά!

What does it mean?

The sentence literally means “good wines” ; καλά is the adjective and κρασιά is the noun κρασί, in plural. Note that there’s no article used with this idiom.

The translation could be “yeah whatever” or “good luck with that”.

Where & How to Use It

We say καλά κρασιά when we want to express our disappointment or frustration about cancellations, delays and things that just went wrong. Also when someone replies in a completely nonsensical way to our question.

You can use this idiom in an informal context, when you talk to a friend or relative. Avoid using it when you’re replying to people you don’t know, since it might sound sarcastic - not fun!

[...] NO BUSES, AGAIN!

[...] NO BUSES, AGAIN!

2. Σιγά τα λάχανα!

What does it mean?

Literally, it means “slowly the cabbage”. Makes absolutely no sense, right? Σιγά is an adverb and it means slowly or softly and τα λάχανα is, as you guessed, the cabbage in plural.

In English is like saying “Big deal!”.

Where & How to Use It

We say σιγά τα λάχανα sarcastically, when we think whatever the other person says is below our expectations or we think it’s not as exciting and important as they think.

This idiom is again used in an informal context. (And even then, it’s better to use it about someone who’s not present!)
 

3. Να ‘χεις τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα

What does it mean?

“To have your eyes fourteen” is an idiom used by so many Greek mamas out there (mine included!) Να έχεις (‘χεις) means to have or you should have, τα μάτια means the eyes and δεκατέσσερα is, as you know, the number 14.

This idiom means be very careful, be alert.

Where & How to Use It

Since there is a verb here, έχω, it means we can use it according to the person we refer to. We tend to use it in the subjunctive however, keeping “να” at the beginning.

It’s not offensive to anyone; it’s rather one of those things you’d say to your teenager, when they’re going out with their friends (and it will definitely make their eyes roll, not multiply!). You can even warn a friend of yours about something you think is dangerous.

4. Οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά

What does it mean?

It means that the walls have ears! Yes, it actually means that someone might overhear what you’re saying so you should better be careful when you're gossiping about your cousin at the family dinner. (Oops!)

Where & How to Use It

When someone is, well, gossiping! You don’t want others think you’re gossiping too but... you are somehow curious to know what happened next so…

Obviously you need to use it at a very low voice... !

Speak lower about your cousin, walls have ears!

Speak lower about your cousin, walls have ears!

5. Πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου

What does it mean?

Literally, it means I paid (all) the hair of my head. Πληρώνω you probably know already is I pay, τα μαλλιά is the hair (in plural; it also has a different use than τρίχα, which is one single hair and can be used for animals too) της κεφαλής μου means of my head.

(Note: της κεφαλής is an older form of the word το κεφάλι. Της κεφαλής is genitive and comes from η κεφαλή, which is feminine. In modern Greek, use το κεφάλι for the actual head and η κεφαλή for the person in charge, the leader).

In English it's like saying "It costs me an arm and a leg".

Where & How to Use It

We say πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου in exasperation, when we think that we paid waaay too much for something. You can use it to almost any situation, even when you complain to the person who sold you this nice jacket - with a hole in it?!? (Good for you!)

This idiom has a verb as well, so depending on who you refer to and what kind of tense you want to use, the verb will change.

6. Πέφτω από τα σύννεφα

What does it mean?

It literally means I fall from the clouds. Ouch. Πέφτω means I fall, από means from and τα σύννεφα means the clouds.

Doesn’t look nice to fall from the clouds, does it? It actually means I’m very surprised, even shocked about something or someone’s actions.

Where & How to Use It

This idiom can be used anywhere. It just expresses a big shock or surprise - negatively.

Again, depending on the person and tense, change the verb. Πέφτω or simple past έπεσα are the two most common tenses.

7. Σκάει γάιδαρο.

What does it mean?

This idiom means (He/ she / it) σκάει, bursts γάιδαρο, a donkey. Greeks love donkeys and donkeys love Greeks, this is why we have so many. Okay maybe not true, but Greeks think of donkeys as extremely patient animals so it’s difficult to make them angry.

Whoever makes a donkey angry, is a truly annoying person; thus this idiom!

Where & How to Use It

When you think someone is extremely and annoyingly persistent - or plain annoying. While you can say this idiom over an argument with the said annoying person, it is only used informally.

A verb again! Σκάει or the second person σκας are the forms you usually need to use.

Click below to listen to the idioms:

Have you ever heard of these idioms? Try and include them in a sentence below - I’d love to see what you came up with!

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