I looked at it like the donkey at the new gate

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

I'm writing some fiction in English and would like to use a Romanian expression, "like the donkey at the new gate." I'm wary, however, of it sounding weird to speakers of English, so am wondering if there's an English expression which I can use instead. Looking at something like the donkey at the new gate means that you don't know what to make of something, that you don't understand something new. It can be a work of contemporary art, for instance.

Look forward to your responses! Thank you in advance!
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It would indeed sound strange to a native speaker, and I wouldn't recommend using it.

    Right now, though, I can't think of an equivalent expression. I'll think more . . .

    Maybe someone else will come up with something.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you, heypresto! Apparently some Romanians have found an equivalent phrase, "to look queer at the sun" -- only I find this expression is even more odd in English than the original Romanian one!
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I can't think of an idiom. Perhaps "bewildered" "baffled" or "glassy-eyed" as per this dictionary.com definition:
    Glassy-eyed adjective
    1.
    having a dull, dazed, or uncomprehending expression; staring fixedly.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    "like the donkey at the new gate."
    You cannot use "the" in the English version. Although in Romania, you could use "the" because everyone knows the story/simile, in the English speaking word, they do not and "the" is used to refer to something of which the reader/the listener/everyone is aware.

    You could say "like a donkey at a new gate.", which I think is good, and although it isn't a set phrase, it would be taken to mean "puzzled and confused".
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you, PaulQ! You know, I instinctively wondered about that when I wrote the phrase down in English. I think I'll use it with "a" and explain what it means afterwards. Thank you so much!
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Here's another expression with a whiff of the farm-yard about it:

    I once wasted a Saturday afternoon at the National Gallery, staring like a stuck pig at acres of coloured canvas till I was bored stiff.

    The Spacious Adventures of the Man in the Street


    A stuck pig is dead, so I suppose it means "with glazed eyes" and indicates boredom rather than incomprehension.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You could say "like a donkey at a new gate.", which I think is good, and although it isn't a set phrase, it would be taken to mean "puzzled and confused".
    Many of us are no longer familiar with the behavior of donkeys so we would still be "puzzled and confused" ourselves.
     

    Sundrop

    New Member
    English, USA
    Hi,

    I'm writing some fiction in English and would like to use a Romanian expression, "like the donkey at the new gate." I'm wary, however, of it sounding weird to speakers of English, so am wondering if there's an English expression which I can use instead. Looking at something like the donkey at the new gate means that you don't know what to make of something, that you don't understand something new. It can be a work of contemporary art, for instance.

    Look forward to your responses! Thank you in advance!
    Hi,
    The southern/mid-western USA phrase is:
    Like a calf at a new gate
    But you are not the calf.
    The expression usually describes someone else’s confusion.
    I have never heard it used to describe self, and would think it odd if I did.
    And here, we would not use it to describe understanding things. We use it to say that someone else did not know what to do.

    Good luck with the book,
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Wow, fabulous! Sundrop: We have the version with calf, too, but here speakers often use it about themselves! The dictionary explains it as following: "to stand amazed, baffled, disoriented (in the face of a new and unexpected situation that you don't know how to deal with)." But we often use is to mean "to not understand much of something, to look at something and not understand anything."
    Edit: Of course the expression comes for calves who come back from grazing following a path that they have come to know, and then come across a new gate (if the farmer who owns them has replaced his).
     
    Last edited:

    Sundrop

    New Member
    English, USA
    Wow, fabulous! Sundrop: We have the version with calf, too, but here speakers often use it about themselves! The dictionary explains it as following: "to stand amazed, baffled, disoriented (in the face of a new and unexpected situation that you don't know how to deal with)." But we often use is to mean "to not understand much of something, to look at something and not understand anything."
    Edit: Of course the expression comes for calves who come back from grazing following a path that they have come to know, and then come across a new gate (if the farmer who owns them has replaced his).
    That calf and donkey make a cute picture. Would they help each other figure it out? ;)
     
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