As a Thai person, I am used to hearing idioms. Thai people like to use idioms in their stories, speech, or conversations because it depicts the situation better.
Here I gather the 7 most common animal idioms that contain animals as the main subject. I guarantee that all the idioms here are used in everyday life and if you were to use them, you will impress your conversation partner for sure.
จับปลาสองมือ jàp bplaa sŏng meu
Literal meaning: To catch fish with each hand
Actual meaning: Trying to do something at the same time and end up losing or failing in both things.
Fish are slippery so it would be hard to catch even with two hands. So if you are trying to catch one fish with your left hand and another fish with the right hand it would be an impossible task.
- Whatever you study choose one thing, don’t “catch fish with each hand”.
jà rian à-rai gôr lêuak mâak yàa nèung · yàa jàp bplaa sŏng meu
หนีเสือปะจรเข้ nĕe sĕua bpà jor-rá-kây
Literal meaning: run away from the tiger to meet a crocodile
Actual meaning: This proverb means that you run away for one danger and encounter another danger. Out of the frying pan into the fire.
A tiger is a fierce and scary animal that can eat us, while crocodiles also are as scary if not scarier than tigers. Both are dangerous.
- I just broke up with my boyfriend. My new boyfriend is as bad as the old one. He gets mad and hits me. “run away from the tiger to meet a crocodile”
ฉันเพิ่งเลิกกับแฟน คนนี้ก็แย่เหมือนคนก่อน โกรธก็ตีโกรธก็ตี หนีเสือปะจรเข้จริง
chăn pêrng lêrk gàp faen · kon-née gôr yâe mĕuan kon gòn · gròht gôr dtee-gròht gôr dtee · nĕe sĕua bpà jor-rá-kâyt-ring
แมวไม่อยู่หนูร่าเริง maew mâi yòo nŏo râa rerng
When the cat is not around the mouse is happy
Actual meaning: This proverb is usually applied to working in a company. When the boss is around everyone is stressed but when he/she is not around everyone is happy.
Mice are never happy around cats because they have to be careful. It’s stressful being under a cat’s surveillance. Therefore when the cat is not there, they are all celebrating in happiness.
- The boss is not around today? “The cat is not around so the mouse is happy”
wan née jâo naai mâi yòo rŏr · maew mâi yòo nŏo râa rerng chieow ná
กบในกะลา gòp nai gà-laa
A frog in a coconut shell
Imagine a frog who is covered by a coconut shell his whole life. All his life he thought that the world looks like a coconut shell. He has never seen the outside world. This proverb is usually used to describe someone ignorant and close-minded intentionally or unintentionally.
People in North Korea are frogs and not permitting outside world news regime is the coconut shell.
A Thai person that believes that coca-cola is from Thailand might have been living in a coconut shell his whole life.
- I watch international news because I don’t want to be a “frog in a coconut shell”.
chăn doo kàao dtàang bprà-tâyt prór mâi yàak bpen gòp nai gà-laa
สีซอให้ควายฟัง sĕe sor hâi kwaai fang
Literal meaning: Playing Thai instrument (sor) for the buffalo to listen.
Actual meaning: Saying something when the other party will not understand/listen. Meaning what you are saying is essentially meaningless to them.
Buffaloes are considered stupid animals. When you want to call someone stupid you can simply call them buffalo. This is because of its characteristics. They are obedient and can’t really think on their own. Buffalos are usually used by farmers to cultivate the rice field.
To play music for a buffalo is non-sense. It’s a waste of time. The buffalo will never understand anything anyway. This proverb is usually used in a family when the parents have to scold their child over and over again and finally decide that what they say was meaningless because the child will not understand, and in the end not listen. Same thing with a boss and employee relationship.
- Speaking with you is like “playing music to a buffalo”.
pôot gàp ter gôr mĕuan sĕe sor hâi kwaai fang
รีดเลือดจากปู rêet lêuat jàak bpoo
Literal meaning: Squeeze the blood out of a crab
Actual meaning: To threaten and pressure people to give you something they don’t have.
Crabs don’t have blood. It is impossible to get any blood from them no matter how hard you squeeze. This idiom is usually used in a context that an authority is trying to get something (such as money) out of people that have no way of giving it to them. Let’s imagine an interrogation where the police keep asking the question that the innocent suspect has no way of knowing. The suspect really doesn’t know no matter how much he was pressured. The police can’t get any information from him.
- There is a bad gang that comes and extorts money from kids around the area. Threatening to take the money from the kids is like trying to “squeeze blood from a carb”. Kids don’t have money to give.
มีแก๊งอันธพาลมาไถเงินเด็กแถวบ้าน ขู่เอาเงินเด็กพวกนี้ก็เหมือนรีดเลือดจากปู เด็กๆไม่มีให้หรอก
mee gáeng-an-tá-paan maa tăi ngern dèk tăew bâan · kòo ao ngern-dèk-pûak-née gôr mĕuan rêet lêuat jàak bpoo · dèk dèk mâi mee hâi ròk
ขี้ใหม่หมาหอม kêe-mài măa-hŏm
Literal meaning: New poop, dog sniff
Actual meaning: To be in love with something new that you recently got, received, bought.
This idiom came from the behavior of dogs. Dogs likes to smell their own poop, but only new one. They put their nose right next to it.
This proverb means that when you buy or get something new you are in love with it. But later, you will eventually get bored of it just like how the dog will eventually walk away from their poop and not look back.
This proverb can be used in many cases. If you recently bought a new shoe and you put it on your bed every day and sleep with it, you mother might look at you and say ขี้ใหม่หมาหอม. Or if you recently started dating a guy and you are in love, texting, calling, phone background, etc.
- I see you call your boyfriend every day. Look “new poop, dog sniffs”. Soon you will be bored.
เห็นโทรหาแฟนทุกวันเลย นี่ไง ขี้ใหม่หมาหอม เดี๋ยวก็เบื่อ
hĕn toh hăa faen túk wan loie · nêe ngai · kêe-mài măa-hŏm · dĭeow gôr bèua