Learn Idioms using Food Themes in the Hindi Language (Muhavre- Idioms)

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In Hindi, idioms are known as ‘Muhavre’ (मुहावरे) . Idioms are not only typical of a language but also of the culture of a region. Idioms become such an integral part of the everyday language that while using them one hardly realizes that it is an idiom. Idioms make a language rich and more meaningful. They help to increase the value of what is being spoken. For every second language learner knowledge of idioms is important. Just as in English, in Hindi what an idiom means is different from what it says literally. In this article we look at some everyday idioms in Hindi language revolving around food. In any region, food is an important part of culture and so it is often found in the language of the common people. English Idioms on food have already been discussed under Idioms using Food Terms in the English Language. Please note that the article gives translations from Hindi to English and not transliterations. The language used is not pure Hindi but rather the everyday language which is a mixture of Urdu and Hindi. The idioms discussed in this article are a part of everyday language of the people. These idioms can be easily experienced in dialogs of famous Bollywood movies and political speeches around the country.

Idioms, Meanings and Usage

Apni khichdi alag pakaana : (अपनी खिचड़ी अलग पकाना) :The idiom translates to cook one’s own meal. It is used in a situation where a person has ideas which are different from what the group holds. (साथ मिल कर न रहना) When a person does not want to stay with the others, this idiom is used. Using the idiom in a sentence, ‘raje maharaje apni apni kichdi pakate rahe, jis ke karan videshyon ne hum par shasan kiya. ' ( राजे महाराजे अपनी अपनी खिचड़ी पकाते रहे, जिस के कारण विदेशियों ने हम पर शासन किया). The sentence used in the example means - Due to infighting of the local princely states the foreigners ruled over us for such a long period.

Aate dal ka bhav malum hona : (आटे दाल का भाव मालुम होना) : It means to come to know the expenses of basic necessities. Aata (Flour) and Dal (Pulses) are a part of the staple diet in this region. The idea behind the idiom probably was a situation where procuring these basic needs is difficult for some reason. (कठिनाई में पड़ना) Using the idiom in a a sentence, ‘es saal baarish samay par na padne se, aam logo ko aate dal ka bhav malum pad gaya’ ( इस साल बारिश समय पर ना पड़ने से, आम लोगो को आटे दाल का भाव मालुम पड गया) The example sentence means -That due to inadequate rains, the common man is facing many problems.

Bandar kya jaane adrak ka swad: (बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद) : A person incapable of appreciating the value of a thing invites this idiom for himself. Literally, the idiom translates to - a monkey has no idea about the taste and benefits of ginger. (अयोग्य व्यक्ति कीमती वस्तु की कद्र नहीं जानता) The English idiom for the same is “Casting pearls before swine”. An example of using the idiom would be, ‘Vishal: Mujhe bread khana acha lagta hai. Mahesh: Aalo ka parantha bread se zyada acha hota hai. Bandar kya jaane aadrak ka swad!’ (विशाल: मुझे ब्रेड खाना पसन्द है। महेश: आलू का परांठा ब्रेड से ज्यादा स्वाद होता है । बन्दर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद !) The example means - Vishal: I like to eat bread. Mahesh: A stuffed potato parntha is tastier than bread. What do you know the true taste! (A parantha is a whole wheat Indian bread with butter spread liberally over it. A potato stuffed prantha is filing, nutritious and tasty.)

Nako chane chabvana: (नाकों चने चबवाना) : to make a person go through tough times. (बहुत तंग करना) Literally, it means to force a person to bite something as hard as chicken peas with his nose. Eating chicken peas with one’s nose would be an impossible task. It would be used in a sentence like ’shivaji ki sena ne aapne dushmano ko nako chene chabvae’ (शिवाजी की सेना ने अपने दुश्मनो को नाकों चने चबवाए) meaning that Shivaji’s army gave a tough time to its enemies.

Thali ka baigan: (थाली का बैंगन) : An unsteady mind. ( अस्थिर विचारओ वाला ) It is used for persons who sway from one thought to the other very quickly. A round egg plant in a big plate would not actually be steady. It would keep rolling. Example: ‘Ram to thali ka baigan hai, kabhi ek dal ko vote dene ki baat karta hai to kabhi doosri.’ ( राम तो थाली का बैंगन है, कभी एक दल को वोट देने की बात करता है, तो कभी दूसरे) The example means that Ram is an undecided fellow, at times he talks of casting his vote in favor of one party and at times to the other.

Idioms, Meanings & Usage continued

Ghee ke diye Jalana: (घी के दीये जलाना) : The idiom means to celebrate. (बहुत खुशियाँ मनाना). Diyas are small earthen lamps which are lit using mustard oil. The idiom is talking of burning lamps using clarified butter which is more expensive than mustard oil. The idiom is for a situation of over indulgence due to one’s happiness. It can be used in a a sentence as, ‘Shri Ram ke Ayodya lotne par logo ne ghee ke diye jalaye’ (श्री राम के अयोध्या लौटने पर लोगों ने घी के दीये जलाये). The example means- when Shri Ram returned to Ayodhya the people celebrated a lot.

Doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani: (दुध का दुध पानी का पानी) : If a mixture of milk and water spills, the two would separate. The same analogy has been used in this idiom. It is used when a situation becomes clear or the truth emerges. (सच सामने आना).Using the same in a sentence ‘Jab daroga ne aas paas kharhe logo se puch tach ki to doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho gaya.’ (जब दरोगा ने आस पास के लोगो से पुछ ताछ की तो दुध का दुध और पानी का पानी हो गया) The sentence in the example means that when the constable enquired from the people standing at the site the truth emerged.

Doodh ki nadiyaan bahaana: (दुध की नदीयां बहाना) : The idiom is used to indicate a situation where a lot of wastage, usually of money is taking place. It means using milk in place of water - this is definitely wastage of milk. Using the same in a sentence ‘Sharma Ji ne apni beti ki shaadi par doodh ki nadiyaan bahaa di’ (शर्मा जी ने अपनी बेटी की शादी पर दुध की नदीयां बहा दी)The example sentence means that at his daughters wedding Mr.Sharma did not care about money.

Ghav par namak chidkna ( घाव पर नमक छिड़कना) : The idiom means to trouble a person who is already in the soup. (दुःखी को और दुःखी करना) The literal meaning is to sprinkle salt on a persons wounds. There is doubt that this would be painful. Using the same in a sentence ‘Naukri jaane ke baad, makan malik ka kiraya mangna to aisa lagta hai jaise koi ghav par namak chidak raha ho’ (नौकरी जाने के बाद मकान मालिक का किराया मांगना तो ऐसा लगता है जैसे कोई घाव पर नमक छिड़क रहा हो)

Some more idioms:

Papad belna (पापड़ बेलना) : To lead a difficult life. (मुश्किलों का सामना करना). Papad is a condiment quite popular all over India. The process of making papads (known as belna in Hindi language) is very cumbersome and not something that every one can do. The idiom thus means to go through hardships.

Daane daane ko tarsna (दाने दाने को तरसना) : to be very poor, to make both ends meet (बहुत गरीब होना). The literal meaning of the idiom is to crave even for the smallest morsel of food.

Ghar ki murghi dal brabar (घर की मुर्गी दाल) :Tendency to undervalue what is ours. (अपनी चीज़ की कद्र न होना). A chicken in Hindi is known as Murgi. In this idiom chicken is equated to Dal (Pulses). Pulses are present in every kitchen and are a part of every meal. The idiom literally means that - a chicken present in the house is equal to a dal. One tends to undervalue what is already his or her.

Jalti aag mein ghee dalna ( जलती आग में घी डालना) : (add fuel to fire) : to wind somebody up (बात को और बड़ना). The literal meaning of the idiom is well illustarted by the English idiom ‘add fuel to fire’.Ghee (butter) when added to fire would help to flare the fire further.

Jale par namak chidakna (जले पर नमक छिड़कना) : to rub salt on open wounds. (दु:खी को और दु:खी करना). The literal translation of the idiom is to sprinkle salt on someone’s burns. The idioms ‘Ghav par namak chidkna ‘and ‘Jale par namk chidikna’ can be used interchagibly.

Lohe ke chane chabaana (लोहे के चने चबाना) : Work very very hard, or do a difficult job. (मुश्किल कार्य करना). The literal meaning of this idiom is to chew chicken peas which are made of iron. This undoubtedly would be a very difficult job to do.

Muh mein paani aana ( मुँह मे पानी आना) : The idiom means to feel tempted. (लालच पैदा होना). The literal translation is to have one’s mouth fill with saliva, or have one’s mouth water.This normally happens on seeing or smelling delicious food. one feels tempted to enjoy that food immediately.

Dal na galna ( दाल न गलना) : Unsuccessful attempt ( सफल न होना). Dal (pulses) is cooked to make it soft and edible. At times, it does not not soften even on cooking for a long time. One cannot have the dal till if it does not soften. Cooking dal and still not being able to have it is what this idiom means in its literal sense.

Ghat ghat ka paani peena (घाट घाट का पानी पीना) : to be experienced ( बहुत अनुभवी होना). The literal meaning of the idiom is ‘to have tasted water of different river banks. In the ancient times, the major towns developed along the river banks. To taste the water from different banks one required to travel and travel added to one’s experiences.

The list of idioms using food items is a long one. The article lists a few which are used commonly. The best way to learn idioms is to use them.

References: ‘मानक व्यावहारिक हिन्दी व्याकरण तथा रचना’ - श्यामजी गोकुल वर्मा & सरस्वती सचित्र हिन्दी व्याकरण