11 Persian Sayings That Make No Sense in English, part TWO

Leyla Shams
May 20, 2014

Dear friends and lovers of the Persian language,

A couple months ago, we here at Chai and Conversation quickly put together a list of Persian sayings we thought sounded quite humorous when literally translated into the English language. Every language has sayings that when taken literally in other languages, make no sense at all, and Persian certainly has its fair share of such expressions. After hastily publishing our list of the illustrated phrases, we were completely surprised to find the post take off and be shared like wild-fire. We finally had a taste of what it means to 'go viral'. Several of you wrote in the comments giving us ideas of more expressions that would be interesting to illustrate, and we couldn't resist.

So here you go, with your help, here is yet another list of common Persian expressions that make absolutely no sense when translated into English.

1. khasté nabāshee

khasteh nabashee

This is a very common saying in the Persian language, and literally means 'Don't be tired.' It's a nicety- you say it when you know someone's been working hard, and you want to let them know that their work is appreciated. It's a great way to begin a conversation- Salām! Khasté nabāshee! - or you can say it after someone's completed any sort of work- be it housework, work at the office, sports, etc. There's no direct way to say this in the English language, so we're happy there's an easy and concise way to say it in Persian.

2. khar too kharé

khar too khareh, there's a donkey in the donkey

While khar too kharé literally means there's a donkey inside a donkey, it's a phrase that signifies chaos or disorganization. So, if you show up at a meeting, and everyone's late, no one knows the agenda, and everything is in disarray, you can simply say khar too kharé! And everyone will know what you mean.

3. saramō bordee

saramo bordee, you took my head

Saramoō bordee literally means you took away my head, but this phrase goes to signify 'you talked my head off'.

4. na bābā

na baba, no father

This is very commonly heard in the Persian language- when someone asks a question, and you emphatically want to say that the answer is no, you say 'Na bābā!'. This literally means 'No father!', but it's just a way of emphasizing that the answer is indeed NO.

5. pedar sag

pedar sag, father dog

This is a not so nice term you can call someone as an insult. If you say someone is a pedar sag, you're literally telling them their father is a dog, and you are giving them a message that you think they are a jerk.

6. shākh darāvordam

shakh daravordam, I grew horns

Shāk dar āvordam is a Persian saying that literally means 'I grew horns!'- similar expressions are heard in many other languages. In Italian, for instance, this would mean that your wife cheated on you. In Persian, however, it simply means 'I was incredibly surprised!' or 'I couldn't believe it!'

7. chashm

chashm, eye

This is a very common way of saying 'yes', even though literally chashm simply means eye.

8. damet garm

damet garm, may your breath be warm

Damet garm is commonly heard in the Persian langauge, and literally means 'may your breath be warm.' This phrase is used especially after someone's said something particularly thoughtful and clever, and you tell them damet garm, may your breath be warm, or in other words, 'may you live for a long time!'

9. deltangam

deltangam, my heart is tight

This is a rather poetic expression which literally means 'My heart is tight'- the true meaning of deltangam, however, is 'I am longing'. So this phrase is used when you are feeling quite nostalgic or when you miss something or someone. So you can be deltang for your former lover, or for the country that you grew up in but haven't seen in a long, long time.

10. doret begardam

doret begardam, I will circle around you

Doret begardam is a sweet phrase that means 'let me do circles around you', and is used to mean something along the lines of 'I love you so much, I admire you, and I would do anything for you.' It is especially used when parents are talking to children.

11. dozāreet oftād

dozareet oftad, your coin fell into the phone booth

This expression requires a bit of a longer explanation. A dozaree is a coin that was used to make telephone calls in public telephone booths in Iran before cell phones took over, making said booths completely obsolte. However, in Iranian telephone booths, often times after the coin was dropped in, it wouldn't 'take', and it would come straight out. So people wishing to make a phone call would have to try dropping the coin in over and over again until it would finally be recognized by the phone, and they could make their call. So, over time, dozāreet oftād came to be a metaphor for someone finally 'getting' something. So, for example, if someone says a joke and the person they are talking to takes a while to 'get' it, after they finally understand the punchline, the jokester can say 'FINALLY, dozāreet oftād', meaning FINALLY you got the joke!'



So there you go, 11 MORE Persian phrases that when translated into English literally, are quite hilarious. Can you think of any that we're missing? Leave them for us in the comment section below- perhaps we can do yet another illustrated series for all to see.

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Love these lists. A few others that come to mind --- "boro baba", "tokhmeh sag", "khareh khasteh", "khar dar chaman", "kharet kardam". You could probably do a whole list on khar- and sag-related phrases!

Del e man fogholaade tang shode
Zemnan saayat kam nashe

phrases with "khar" (in English:donkey) are usually impolite.you'd better not use them in Iran or other Persian language countries.
I'm Iranian , by the way.

After the first 11 I understood a phrase in two persian movies As I watched them again. The phrase دست درد نكونه is used 3 times in one scene of Children of Heaven and at least once sarcastically in A Separation. I dig it! Thank you. I am anticipating the next 11 with baited breath!

Oop, guess this was lesson 16 and no in the first list. Still, I'm very grateful you covered it.

In Mexico we have a similar phrase to "dozāreet oftād". We say "cayó el veinte" which literally means "the 20 fell". You can aske if the 20 fell for you or someone else. It refers to a 20 cent coin also used in public telephones. When the coin dropped, the machine accepted the coin, the call could be connected for both parties. As a side note, like in Italian, we say someone grew horns or has horns when their partner has cheated on them. :D

Really interesting!
I hope you continue providing us with such amazing stuff!

I love to use these on my Persian relatives who, then, think my Persian language skills are coming along! Today when describing the two - yes two! weddings being held a month apart in our back yard for two different sons this summer, I was able to bust out the 'Khar too khare' phrase to the great enjoyment of my sister-in-law in Iran :) These lists make learning Persian so much more fun!

Actually, we have a very similar phrase to number 11 in english, although perhaps not in american english. "The penny has dropped" means just the same as dozāreet oftād, however I think the etymology might be a little different.

The last one has an equivalent in Turkish. They say Jeton dustu (the jeton is dropped down).

My mom says "pedar sag" all the time when she get's frustrated at particular types of people. I think it's funny because she has no idea who might know what it means. One day someone will know and call her out on it.XP

She also says "your penny dropped" both in farsi and english. I never knew the origin of that one until now. Thanks for the tidbit!

I laughed and enjoyee this. I will try some of these with my persian girlfriend and future inlaws

FYI The phrase 'the penny dropped' is used in English with exactly the same meaning as number 11.

ایول خیلی باحال اینارو یاد دادی!

good luck..by the way im iranian

"Doret begardam" has a superstitious root, people believed if someone makes circular movement around someone who is severely sick (or around anyone else,even not sick), the the sickness or the misfortunes of the sick person will pass to the one who is making the circular movement. When you tell someone :"Doret begardam" or ''Ellāhee begardam" you are actually saying:"may God pass all your sickness and misfortunes to me".

Demawgetoon chawg ay? Literally means "Is your nose fat?" It means "How are you doing?"

It's amazing, love them! Could you please show me those sayings written in Persian script? Learning Persian at the moment, so it will be quite helpful. Thanks.

I have been out of Iran for 45 years, but I still remember all of the proverbs and Persian saying. The key is to find similar expressions or proverbs in English. Here are some examples:
1. Jujeh ha ra akhareh paeez meeshmarand
Similar expression in English is:
Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.
2. Shah nowmeh Akharesh khosheh
Similar expression in English:
Wait till hear the end!

3. Too Baghee?
English equivalent: Are you with me?

Here is one I am interested to know an equivalent phrase in English:
4. Khoda bara doshmanet nakhad
Which leterally means: The situation was so bad that I will pray to God, that it will never even happens to your enemy!
Prof. R. Zomorrodian

The English expression is: "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy".

1. Goez be shaghighe che rabt dare
2. masjed jaye goezidan niest
3. fekr mikone ke tokhme dozarde mikone
4. engar az koene fiel oftade
5. fekr mikone khoenesh az ma rangientare
6. na be ien shoeriye shoer na be oen binamaki
7. dare dizi baze, hayaye gorbe koja rafte
8. sekeye shahe velayat, har ja ravad bar ayad
9. be koenesh mige: "donbalam naya, boe midi"
10. dahanesh boeye shier made YA ta shashesh kaf karde fekr mikone ke mitoene enteghad kone....

In English we have an expression that's similar to "Dozareet Oftad" ... it's " The Penny Drops"