poked her nose into other people's business

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kva, Sep 26, 2008.

  1. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    Hello everyone!

    I am trying to translate a Russian saying. Here is my first try:

    "Curious Varvara's nose was torn off at the market place. Because she poked her nose into other people's business". Does it sound naturally?

    My other alternatives are:
    1. Because she was sniffing around.
    2. She put her nose into the wrong place where it was not supposed to be.

    Thanks!
     
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "Poking/Sticking one's nose into other people's business/affairs" is a common saying in AE.

    To have one "nose torn off" is very odd, though. I assume it is meant figuratively.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2008
  3. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    Yes, it is meant figuratively. It means that people don't like that someone stick her nose into their business and they might want to punish Varvara by tearing her nose off ))
     
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    It is entirely natural and idiomatic in English to speak of people who are "nosy", or who "stick their noses" or "poke their noses" into other people's business. Because it is a common expression, it would almost always be understood figuratively in English.

    HOWEVER, "tearing off a nose" is certainly not a common figure of speech in English, even if used in reference to what might happen to someone who is too nosy. Because it is not a common figure of speech, the natural tendency for an English speaker would be to take the expression literally. The idea then would be that Barbara really did have her nose torn off her face in the marketplace -- a horrible, violent, bloody, and grotesque image for the mind of the reader, and apparently not at all the idea you are trying to express.
     
  5. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    In English (at least in AmE) we call such people nosy. This emphasizes their being too interested in other peoples' business rather than their meddling in other people's affairs; at least that is how I understand it. If that is what you mean, you could say, "because she is so/too nosy".

    I believe people say that if someone continues being nosy, he [or she] is "going to get his [or her] nose cut off." However, I could find only one quotable example of this use:
    "Well, 'ere's a message for you and your dandy friends. Stay away from the 'arbor. A nosy scoundrel like you is apt to get 'is nose cut off ...." Rogue by Fabio and Eugenia Riley (1994 )​
    I think of this as commonplace, in which case English speakers will not be struck by the violence of the image. However, I may be mistaken, If it is not a familiar turn of phrase, it is subject to the same objections GWB raises against "tearing off" a nose.

    I hope other native speakers will comment on whether "get your nose cut off" as a threat against those who are too nosy is familiar to them. Obviously, there may be dialectical differences, for instance between AmE and BrE.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2008
  6. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    I dimly recall hearing something of this sort at least once before, but it always seems like a threat of physical harm, not of figurative punishment or retribution.
     
  7. kitenok Senior Member

    I think the usual proverbial association with forcible removal of noses in English has to do with "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face."

    But it also seems to me that it would be pretty natural for one to extend the "nose" metaphor in the word nosey into a facetious threat to cut off the nose of the offender (as in Cagey's citation). I can't imagine anyone would ever take such a threat as anything other than a cautionary extension of the metaphor (i.e. not a literal threat to perform a spontaneous nasectomy).
     
  8. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    I did not want to shock the audience with a bloody image )) It was a literal translation. Varvara is not a real person, she is a character from old saying and her case serves as an example of what might have happened to someone who is too nosy.

    Is there English/American proverb that can convey the same meaning ?
     
  9. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    There is a saying in English "curiosity killed the cat".
     
  10. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    I just want to add that the general idea of this saying is a warning rather than a threat. If someone keeps being too nosy, bad and unpredicted things may happen to that person.
     
  11. kitenok Senior Member

    Like GreenWhiteBlue, I thought of Curiosity killed the cat, but this isn't exactly the same (that poor deceased cat might have been curious without necessarily being nosey).

    I really can't think of an English proverb that specifically warns about the consequences of poking one's nose into other people's business. Maybe someone else can, but I'm at a loss...
     
  12. Melz0r Senior Member

    Suffolk, England
    English, England
    It's a wonderful idiom, but I would be wary of using a direct translation unless it was very clear you were being figurative. I think the verb "torn" does imply too much violence to be read figuratively.

    "Curiosity killed the cat" conveys the meaning you're talking about, but would be difficult to apply in context, because it can't be applied to anyone in particular, it's just something which is said.
     
  13. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    I just found another translation at Wikiquote:

    Nosy Barbara's nose was torn off at the market.
    English version: Curiosity killed the cat.

    It seems that it is hard to avoid violence here )) Thank you all for you help and your comments!
     
  14. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    I really cannot agree with Wikiquote’s comparison.

    The cat was killed by its own curiosity—whereas Barbara’s nose was torn off by fellow villagers who wanted to punish her for her nosiness.

    Not the same thing at all.
     
  15. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Notwithstanding the issue of the torn nose, this doesn't sound natural because you have broken one sentence into two. It should be:

    "Curious Varvara's nose was torn off at the marketplace because she poked her nose into other people's business".

    "Because she poked her nose..." should not be a new sentence.

    "Marketplace" is one word, by the way.
     
  16. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    I agree with JohnDot's disagreement.

    And with Dimcl's suggested correction.
     
  17. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    Thanks Dimcl for your correction!

    I would say that Varvara's own curiocity killed her as so happened to the cat. Both sentences have the same meaning in Russian. My problem is that I don't feel any difference and this nuance remains unsolved mystery for me.
     
  18. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    This is the difference for a speaker of English, I believe.

    The problem with nosy people is that they offend other people. If you try to find out why someone is getting a divorce, or how much money a person has (in my culture) you are nosy and offensive to me. (It will be different, of course, if you are a friend and I tell you these things because I want to.) The bad consequences of nosiness result from people's anger.

    In the common modern usage of the saying about the cat, the cat is curious about everything. In itself, there is nothing offensive about a cat's curiosity. The problem lies in the cat's lack of caution when satisfying it. Some day it may try something dangerous, and die as a result. An example is in a news story reprinted in the Wiki article "Curiosity killed the cat" . A cat was so curious that it climbed up inside a chimney and got stuck there. Later, while people were trying to rescue it, the cat fell back down and broke its back. As a consequence, the cat died. That is the sort of thing we mean when we say that "curiosity killed the cat."

    The Wiki article has other variations of the saying and its interpretation, but this version is the most common at present, I believe. In my view, none of the variations fits what happens when a person is too nosy.
     
  19. kva Senior Member

    USA
    Russian
    Thanks Cagey for your explanation! Now it makes sense ))
     

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