The cat is out of the bag

ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I did not know the expression in English, but it is quite different from Dutch: "De aap komt uit de mouw" [The ape comes out of the sleeve" literally].

How about the version in your language?
 
  • Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    In French, in the sense of something which was a secret but is not any more because it was revealed, we would say:
    vendre la mèche (literally to sell the fuse) = to let the cat out of the bag
    on a vendu la mèche (literally the fuse was sold) = the cat is out of the bag

    The idea is that the fuse (mèche) of an explosive issue is given away (vendue) before it might have exploded and create surprise and/or damages.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    In Spanish, I'd say:

    Se ha descubierto el pastel (Lit., the cake has been uncovered)​
    In Catalan:
    S'ha descobert el marro [səðəsku'βεɾtəɫ'maru] (Lit., the dregs/muddle has been uncovered/discovered)​
    Or, probably as a calque from the Spanish above:

    S'ha descobert el pastís [səðəsku'βεɾtəɫpəs'tis] (Lit., the cake has been uncovered)​
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    In Dutch the fact is not that explosive.

    I notice that the metaphors are quite different. Might the meanings be a little different?
    - Dutch: finally everything becomes clear
    - French: explosive discovery of the truth (with risks)
    - Spanish/... : mud and cake have a different connotation ; is the truth ugly perhaps, or does the truth taste good??? ;-)
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    French: explosive discovery of the truth (with risks)
    The idea is the secret was explosive because of the surprise it would have created, but the surprise is not necessarily negative. See the following examples:

    Je voulais faire une surprise à ma copine pour son anniversaire et l'inviter au restaurant, mais sa mère a vendu la mèche.
    (I wanted to surprise my girlfriend for her birthday and invite her to the restaurant, but her mother let the cat out of the bag)

    Les terroristes voulaient commettre un attentat mais leurs complices ont vendu la mèche, et ils ont été arrêtés avant.
    (The terrorists wanted to carry out an attack but their accomplices let the cat out of the bag, and they were arrested before they did)

    I don't know if the English expression suits in both cases.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Curiosly, in Russian "a tomcat in the bag/sack" (кот в мешке, "kót v meshké") means something of unknown qualities, but the expression about letting the cat out of the bag is absent.

    However, there is an expression "you cannot hide an awl in a sack" (шила в мешке не утаишь, "shíla v meshké ne utaísh" - about something which cannot be hidden for long), and a related "the awl has come out of the sack" (when everything is revealed, just as expected).

    Still there is no FULL proverbial equivalent for "the cat is out of the bag" in Russian. Some authors (and especially translators) simply translate the English expression, but it isn't proper Russian anyway.
     

    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    does the truth taste good???
    The origin of se ha descubierto el pastel is said to date back to times in which the cake makers (sometimes) didn't insert as much filling as anounced (or any at all) so clients asked them to cut the cake to discover if it had the anounced filling.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Italian: (act., causative) "far uscire il gatto del sacco", just the same as in the other Romanic languages...

    Just BTW: we do not have "to let the cat out of the bag", only the (static/dynamic) conclusion: "the cat comes out of the bag". it might be interesting to distinguish them in our answers: causative (let) vs. spontaneous/..."...

    In that respect Russian seems to opens up a can of "catty" expressions, which we might treat at the Language Lab, and an interesting new metaphor for the original expression introducing an owl.
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    We might refer to betrayal, saying things that should not be said: verraden (but that is really tragic: to betray someone) or verklikken (like children do, hoping to win someone over and get a reward, but betraying of course their friend: "Mum, my friend has stolen the money!" - denouncing, tattling, especially squealing...). We can also uit de school klappen (talk from/ out of the school) when we - without realizing that - uncover secrets...

    But I think those do not fit in perfectly here... It becomes clear to me now that we are all focussing on (un)covering the truth, but that things are so different. That will be a topic for the Language Lab again, I suppose.

    However, I hope for some more (Verb)-cat/...-(Verb)-out of-bag/... stuff here...
     
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    Demiurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Italian: (act., causative) "far uscire il gatto del sacco", just the same as in the other Romanic languages...

    Just BTW: we do not have "to let the cat out of the bag", only the (static/dynamic) conclusion: "the cat comes out of the bag". it might be interesting to distinguish them in our answers: causative (let) vs. spontaneous/..."...
    Interesting. German is more like Italian than Dutch in this regard: die Katze aus dem Sack lassen.
    Referring to the result is also possible: Die Katze ist aus dem Sack.
     

    Olaszinhok

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In Italian it is: far uscire il gatto dal sacco, but it is not that common, in my view. It is way more usual: vuotare il sacco (literally to empty the sack/the bag) let the cat out of the bag...
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Curiosly, in Russian "a tomcat in the bag/sack" (кот в мешке, "kót v meshké") means something of unknown qualities
    That sounds similar to 'buying a pig in a poke' in English. A poke is a small bag.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    It might be interesting to go into these "truth" expressions (well, truth and honesty - but to some extent they share truthfulness, I suppose). But maybe in a separate thread at the Language Lab...
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Welsh: 'gollwng y gath allan o'r cwd' = to drop the cat out of the bag = to let the cat out of the bag, to let something slip out (usually intentionally).

    'prynu cath mewn cwd' = to buy a cat in a bag = to buy a pig in a poke. (cf. The Russian expression using cats cited by Awwal12, above).
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    There are no cats or monkeys in the Hungarian phrase, we say "the nail came out of the sack" (= the sharp point made a hole in the fabric):

    Kibújt a szög a zsákból. - literally: out-stuck the nail the sack-from
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Greek:

    «Βγάζω τ' άπλυτα στη φόρα» [ˈvɣa.zɔ ˈtap.li.ta sti ˈfɔ.ɾa] --> to expose the dirty laundry in public

    «Φόρα» [ˈfɔ.ɾa] (fem. nom. sing.) is Byz.Gr and comes from the pl. fora of Lat. neut. sing. forum --> public place, marketplace, forum
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    The idea is the secret was explosive because of the surprise it would have created, but the surprise is not necessarily negative. See the following examples:

    Je voulais faire une surprise à ma copine pour son anniversaire et l'inviter au restaurant, mais sa mère a vendu la mèche.
    (I wanted to surprise my girlfriend for her birthday and invite her to the restaurant, but her mother let the cat out of the bag)

    Les terroristes voulaient commettre un attentat mais leurs complices ont vendu la mèche, et ils ont été arrêtés avant.
    (The terrorists wanted to carry out an attack but their accomplices let the cat out of the bag, and they were arrested before they did)

    I don't know if the English expression suits in both cases.
    I guess it is technically fine in both cases.
    Personally I wouldn't use it in the second case. Since I hardly use that expression and when I do it's in trivial cases like your first example, the second one talking about terriorists strikes me as odd.
    I'd say "The terrorists wanted to carry out an attact but their accomplices sold them out / threw them under the bus, and they were arrested before they could do it."

    By the way, wouldn't mèche be better translated as wick than fuse?
     
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    Zareza

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    In Romanian

    We hadn't planned to announce it for a while... but since you've let the cat out of the bag...

    to let the cat out of the bag = a scăpa porumbelul (to let the pigeon out (of the cage, of my hands) - with the meaning that the pigeon's owner was not cautious, careful)

    Oh, what a revelation! Until now I thought the pigeon was... out of the mouth... all my childhood I imagined this. :D
     
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    Zareza

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I thought of Asad7080's Urdu version…
    Could you translate in English what it is in Urdu version?
    UPDATE: Ok, I understand. The Urdu version is the same in English version, the title of the thread.

    بلی بیگ سے باہر ہے۔ = The cat is out of the bag.
     
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    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    Curiosly, in Russian "a tomcat in the bag/sack" (кот в мешке, "kót v meshké") means something of unknown qualities, but the expression about letting the cat out of the bag is absent.
    In Macedonian we have that saying too:

    мачка во вреќа (mačka vo vreḱa) "a cat in a sack"
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Some general ideas about this thread
    - it is mostly a cat, but it might be an owl or a dove; in French it is about the wick being sold, in Spanish about the content of a cake, or the nail in HUngarian...
    - I happen to notice now: it is a tom-cat in some cases, but in general it is just a cat. it would be odd to refer to a tom-cat in our expression in Dutch.
    - I have come to realize that in some cases people decide to let the truth come to light, whereas in some cases it happens inadvertently or without any premeditation. Our expression refers to truth revealing itself,

    Hanging out the dirty laundry is slightly different; no suddenness involved, only the "ugly truth", with a special intention...

    Buying cats in bags is also different: that is about cheating and making a mistake while buying, lit. or fig.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I happen to notice now: it is a tom-cat in some cases, but it would be odd to refer to a tom-cat in our expression in Dutch.
    It's all about general marking of gender for cats, actually. Two main questions are 1) what is the default gender of a generic animal from some species and 2) what is the situation with morphological marking of that gender. In Russian cats are generically feminine, but it's also female cats which take additional morphological marking (cf. f. "koshka" vs. m. "kot"; -t in "koshka" was removed according to an old diminutive/augmentative morphological pattern). So it's natural that tomcats sometimes take precedence.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In English it's truly so, because tomcats are both non-default and bearing additional marking. It's also basically the same in German (Katz(e) vs. Kater); not sure about Dutch.

    Russian is different, though, for the reasons described above.
     
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    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    There are no cats or monkeys in the Hungarian phrase, we say "the nail came out of the sack" (= the sharp point made a hole in the fabric):

    Kibújt a szög a zsákból. - literally: out-stuck the nail the sack-from
    How would you define the Hungarian idiom? Because I think it means something different. It seems cat's out of the bag means a secret has been revealed, so they are rather "false friends". But I bet the thread opener did not want exact translations just similar interesting phrases. While I have got the feeling the Dutch phrase means what the Hungarian one means, but I speak little Dutch, so....But here are no definitions, no contexts, so... :rolleyes:
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    How would you define the Hungarian idiom? Because I think it means something different. It seems cat's out of the bag means a secret has been revealed, so they are rather "false friends".
    Yes, you're right that the meaning of the Hungarian phrase is somewhat different, but I'd say it's still pretty close to the "cat" phrase:
    "someone's true intentions (which he tried to keep secret) have been revealed".

    Don't you agree?
     

    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Well, András, details matter ;) I think it would be good to have some context if we want to learn here something or just make lists of phrases and disappear. I have not known the English phrase, and how should I know what the Dutch phrase means, well I use Google and I have the feeling it means something different. It would be appreciated to have some comments from natives what those English and Dutch phrases mean. I used to visit WR to learn.
     

    hui

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    In Finnish, there is the expression nostaa kissa pöydälle = to lift the cat onto the table.
    It means "revealing" a generally known awkward or difficult fact that everyone has avoided bringing up.
     
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