There are funny and extremely creative expressions in every language. Let’s discover the meaning of five common ones in Romanian. You can try to guess their meaning before reading the explanation. How many did you get right?
1. A freca menta, literally “to rub mint”. It actually means “to waste time, do nothing much”. The urban dictionary mentions “rubbing mint” in English as well, in fact. That’s because it refers to an ancient Greek custom of rubbing the tables with mint after meals. In time, some servants came to prefer cleaning tables (with mint leaves) instead of cutting wood, carrying water or any other strenuous physical activity. As time passed by, changing the tablecloth became a habit. Yet, the idiom has persisted with the current meaning of avoiding hard chores.
2. Floare la ureche, literally “flower behind the ear”, means “a very easy task, something easy to do, a piece of cake”. There is a (British) explanation to it. Hundreds of years ago, the British ladies in medieval times would signal whether they had a partner or were single with a flower behind their left or right ear, respectively. So it was easy to know which lady to approach. This custom still exists in Hawaii, where ladies use an orchid to make their relationship status clear.
3. Cu noaptea-n cap (literal English translation: with the night inside the head) means “very early, the wee hours”. A good translation would be “at the break of dawn”.
4. A o căuta cu lumânarea, “to look for something with a (lit) candle” means to look for trouble, be imprudent, act unwisely.
5. A-i lipsi o doagă (to be missing a stave) is a milder way of saying that someone is crazy. It would be an equivalent of “to lose one’s marbles”.
1. More details in Romanian here: https://www.istorie-pe-scurt.ro/originea-expresiei-a-freca-menta/
2. More about this expression here: https://www.shtiu.ro/de-unde-vine-expresia-floare-la-ureche-4296.html