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Thread: to carry coal to Newcastle

  1. #1
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    to carry coal to Newcastle

    I'm really eager to know how can it be said in other languages "to carry coal to Newcastle"? We in Persian say "to carry caraway to Kerman " and Kerman is a historical city in the south of Iran,in wich the most part of caraway seeds of Iran grow.And in Italain and other members of the romance languages and even in Dutch is said "to carry water to the sea" .

  2. #2
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    You've posted this thread in the Russian section and received a correct answer: ехать в Тулу со своим самоваром (to go to Tula with one's own samovar).

  3. #3
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    In Swedish I think it is "to sell sand in Sahara", though I'm not sure if this is rather used for someone so shrewd that he could sell sand in Sahara.

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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle


  5. #5
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Vandad, it would have been a good idea to include links to the previous threads you posted in other forums:

    Arabic

    Dutch
    Greek
    Japanese
    Korean
    Polish
    Russian
    Turkish

    In German there is:
    - Eulen nach Athen tragen = carry owls to Athens (It is a calque of the Greek one and mainly used by educated people; many German native speakers wouldn't know the literal meaning of this idiom - still, it is the only idiom with this meaning which is used in all German speaking nations.)
    - Regional idioms as listed here at Wiki of which however I only know "einem Eskimo einen Kühlschrank verkaufen" which however is not (!) synonymous (literal meaning: "to sell a fridge to an Inuit", and the idiom means "being an excellent salesman"); thus I can't confirm if they're really idiomatic, or in what regions they're used.
    "An esoteric may claim more nonsense in 5 minutes than a scientist may be able to disprove in his entire life." Vince Ebert, about fighting sciolism.

  6. #6
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Quote Originally Posted by jonquiliser View Post
    In Swedish I think it is "to sell sand in Sahara", though I'm not sure if this is rather used for someone so shrewd that he could sell sand in Sahara.
    Yup, it would take superior sales skills to sell sand in the Sahara, which is similar to selling snow to Eskimos, but I've seen it used for pointless activities, too...

    The most common equivalent Swedish expression for doing something pointless is 'gå över ån efter vatten', i.e. to cross the creek for water, so similar but not exactly like the Romance/Dutch version.

    /Wilma

  7. #7
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    In Serbian one could say raditi Sizifov posao, which (literally) means to do the work of Sisyphus and is not really synonymous to the English phrase, or trla baba lan da joj prođe dan, which means to de something pointless.

  8. #8
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    In Hungarian we have a loval variant "Vizet vinni a Dunaba" meaning 'to carry water to the Danube'.

  9. #9
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Czech:

    nosit dříví do lesa - to carry wood into forest
    nošení dříví do lesa - carrying of wood into forest

    there is also nosit sovy do Athén - to carry owls into Athens, but this is rare, I think that I never heard it, I only saw it in written form

  10. #10
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    You can also say "to bring sand to the beach" in English.

  11. #11
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Welsh (all of these are copied from the Geiriadur yr Academi dictionary):

    bwrw heli yn y môr "throw brine into the sea"
    iro blonegen ~"to grease pig lard"
    iro hwch â bloneg "to grease a sow with lard"
    gwerthu mêl i berchen gwenyn "to sell honey to an owner of bees"
    mynd i 'ngheg i chwilio am fy nhafod "to go to my mouth in search of my tongue"
    gyrru halen i'r Heledd "to drive salt to Yr Heledd" (Yr Heledd is a placename meaning "the salt pit")
    golchi traed alarch "to wash a swan's feet"

    Icelandic
    bera í bakkafullan lækinn "to carry into a brimming stream"
    Last edited by Gavril; 16th April 2014 at 2:28 AM.

  12. #12
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    In Italian (in addition to portare acqua al mare) there is portare vasi a Samo, nottole ad Atene, cavoli a Legnaia (vases to Samo, noctules to Athens, cabbages to Legnaia).
    In Sicily we say also portare paglia a Lipari (strow to Lipari).
    Last edited by Nino83; 12th May 2014 at 11:34 AM.

  13. #13
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    I have always known this expression as "coals to Newcastle" The ngram at https://books.google.com/ngrams/grap...castle%3B%2Cc0 shows a large degree of dominance over "coal to Newcastle".
    It's the short words that get you.

  14. #14
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Bengali:
    "tæla mathay tel dewa" = "To put oil on an oiled head"
    Context: It is common in Bengal, and other parts of Indian subcontinent to put oil to your hairs before a bath.

  15. #15
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Quote Originally Posted by sound shift View Post
    I have always known this expression as "coals to Newcastle" The ngram at https://books.google.com/ngrams/grap...castle%3B%2Cc0 shows a large degree of dominance over "coal to Newcastle".

    I have to agree. I'm English as well — from the home counties — and I have only ever heard the expression in the plural. See Wikipedia:- Coals to Newcastle
    ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool’ — Wm Shakespeare: As You Like It

  16. #16
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    Re: to carry coal to Newcastle

    Quote Originally Posted by ilocas2 View Post
    Czech:nosit dříví do lesa - to carry wood into forestnošení dříví do lesa - carrying of wood into forestthere is also nosit sovy do Athén - to carry owls into Athens, but this is rare, I think that I never heard it, I only saw it in written form
    It's the same in Vietnamese. We say chở gỗ về rừng, which literally means "to carry timbers to a forest".
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