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idiom meaning "very hard to find"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Setwale_Charm, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Hi!
    I was asked to find an equivalent idiom in English which would mean that smth is extremely hard to find, very scarce, any ideas?
    I am not able to come up with something in urgency.
     
  2. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
    A needle in a haystack? As scarce as hen´s teeth?
     
  3. I think, the second would fit best. Thanks a lot!
     
  4. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    "smth"? Is that the sound one makes while eating a peanut butter sandwich and hunting for idioms?

    Scarce as hen's teeth means rare. Rarities are not always hard to find, especially in museums. Like a needle in a haystack is truly hard to find, whether the item is rare or not.
     
  5. I was later on told about the context they needed. They are talking about the low demand for certain cars in the US and that potential buyers are very very few. So I think, "scarce" is a good option here, no?
     
  6. Cagey non modo mod

    California
    English - US
    To those of us who believe that hen have no teeth, "scarce as hen's teeth" means that something is impossible to find.

    I was relieved to find that someone else sees it the same way, although others do use it to mean extremely rare, as stated above. (I would like to see their chickens.)
     
  7. e42mercury Senior Member

    Mendoza, Argentina
    English, USA
    This thread is closely related to another: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2367871
    The hen's teeth idiom seems to come up often on web searches. However, as an American, I've never heard of it.
    I found a few others that sound more natural to me (a few from www.phrases.net).
    A Cagey points out, only the hen's teeth phrase is something is impossible to find.

    needle in a haystack (difficult to find) - this one is apparently also used in Spanish
    a diamond in the rough (unexpectedly rare and beautiful)
    few and far between (rare and difficult to find)

    other related phrases with slightly different meanings:


    a good man is hard to find
    hole in one (rare achievement)
    once in a blue moon (rare event)
     
  8. morzh

    morzh Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    I am not sure " a needle in a haystack" would work - it means "hard to find" in the sense of "well-hidden".

    I was about to suggest "few and far between", but it's already here.

    I think the exact context would not hurt - the exact idiom may depend on what it is exactly that is scarce.
    "Rare gem", for instance, may be used towards some things and some people, but won't fit to describe some other hard-to-find objects.

    I don't think all of the sayings are universal, even if the general meaning is the same.
     
  9. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Not to me. It just means "hard to find." It can mean "scarce," "obscure," or "difficult to detect," as well as "well-hidden." I think the Velvelettes agree with me on this one.
     
  10. morzh

    morzh Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    Well....

    Wikipedia:

    >>A Needle in a haystack is a figure of speech used to refer to something that is difficult to locate in a much larger space.

    >>If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.
    http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/needle+in+a+haystack.html

    Both these sources point to the meaning that it is something that is too small to find amongst many other things.
    As, if I look for a person in a huge city, where one simply gets lost.

    This is different from simply "hard to find / scarce".

    If I need to find a rare, say, make of a car, or rare book simply due to the fact that it is, well, rare - it is not because it gets lost amongst the multitudes of other books. So, I don't think you can use the "needle in a haystack" here.
     
  11. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I think "hard to find" and "very scarce" are two different things. And I think that "hard to find" is well described by the phrase "like trying to find a needle in a haystack." I'll leave the "very scarce" to others.
     
  12. morzh

    morzh Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    (OK I think these two are copies of each other)

    >>>scarce adj., scarc·er, scarc·est.
    1. Insufficient to meet a demand or requirement; short in supply: Fresh vegetables were scarce during the drought.
    2. Hard to find; absent or rare: Steel pennies are scarce now except in coin shops.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/scarce


    scarce (skârs)adj. scarc·er, scarc·est 1. Insufficient to meet a demand or requirement; short in supply: Fresh vegetables were scarce during the drought.
    2. Hard to find; absent or rare: Steel pennies are scarce now except in coin shops.

    adv.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/scarce




    Example:

    Diamonds like this one are very hard to find nowadays.
    Q: would you substitute it like so:
    Diamonds like this one are like a needle in a haystack?
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012
  13. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    It’s very hard to find a diamond like this nowadays – it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
     

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