to put the cart before the horse

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by sokol, May 24, 2009.

  1. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    This English idiom has a similar German equivalent:

    - das Pferd von hinten aufzäumen (lit.: to bridle a horse at its back)

    and both of course mean "doing something in the wrong order".

    There's also an Austrian German idiom meaning the same thing which however is vastly different in literal meaning:

    - mit der Kirche um's Kreuz (gehen/fahren) (lit.: (to go) with the church around the cross)

    All three idioms contain a contradiction: you can't put a carriage before the horse, you can't bridle a horse at the back, and you can't carry a church around the cross.

    I'm interested in similar idioms in other languages, plus literal translation (and explanation if necessary), as I am curious if this contradiction is used in other languages too to construct this very same (or a similar) idiom.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    It's the same in Portuguese:

    pôr/colocar a carroça na frente dos bois.
  3. Angel.Aura

    Angel.Aura del Mod, solo L'aura

    Roma, Italia
    Ciao sokol :)

    In Italian, the only similar expressions that come to mind are
    mettere il carro davanti ai buoi
    (literally: to put the cart before the oxen)
    fasciarsi la testa prima di romperla (literally: to bandage your head before breaking it)
  4. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    бежать впереди паровоза (literally: to run in front of the steam engine)
    This link provides more variants, but I don't remember any of them used, perhaps only a literal equivalent of "to put the carriage/cart before the horse" - ставить телегу перед лошадью or ставить телегу впереди лошади.
  5. porilo New Member

    In English it's normally "to put the cart before the horse", not "carriage".


  6. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek this idiom has an almost identical equivalent:
    "Βάζω το κάρο μπροστά απ'τ'άλογο" (Vazo to karo brosta ap't'aloɣo), "I put the cart before the horse.
    And a similar one I've also heard:
    "Το κάρο ζεύτηκε μπροστά απ'τ'άλογο" (To karo zeftike brosta ap't'aloɣo), "the cart is harnessed in front of the horse"
  7. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    French: Mettre la charrue avant les bœufs. Also, there's an en-fr thread about this.

    Edit: it is also about oxen, and the cart is a plough, like the ones they used for agriculture.
    Last edited: May 26, 2009
  8. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Thanks, duly noted. :)
  9. Miguel Antonio Senior Member

    Galego (Rías Baixas)
    Spanish: poner el carro delante de los bueyes

    So it's oxen too, not horses

    Also: empezar la casa por el tejado (to start building the house by the roof)
  10. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Tagalog: Ang paragos sa harapan ng kabayo. (the wooden cart in front of the horse). I never encounter this idiom in Tagalog, but what i heard is " Ang Tao ang humili sa paragos" (the man is the one who pull the cart)
  11. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    It does not exist in Hungarian and I am afraid in Slavic languages either...
  12. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)

    zapřáhnouti vůz před koně (vůz = car/carriage/wagon, kůň = horse);
  13. Dymn Senior Member

    Catalan, Catalonia
    In Catalan we also have it: Posar el carro davant dels bous. We can also say it like this: passar l'arada davant dels bous ("to pass the plough before the oxen"). I have to admit that I have just discovered it, though.

    I've always heard Començar la casa per la teulada, as in Spanish.
  14. animelover Senior Member

    Eastern Germany
    The Japanese (and also Chinese) word 矛盾 'mujun' (Japanese pronunciation) 'máodùn' (Mandarin Chinese) "contradiction" is based upon a fascinating tale. It begins with a merchant in the state of Chu, China. The shields (盾) he sold, he proudly claimed, would protect you against any halberd (矛). When you were intertested in his halberds (矛), you would be told how they could pierce any shield (盾) and any armour. One day, a smart adventurer asked him what would happen if he were to fight with one of the merchant's halberds against an opponent equipped with one of his shields. The merchant kept thinking, yet he could not find an answer. Thus, 矛盾 "halberd-shield" has become the word for "contradiction."


    方(木+内)円鑿, 木+内 represents for a character composed of 木 to the left and 内 to the right. Less well known 4-character idiom pronounced 'houzeiensaku'. The first two characters refer to rectangular tenon, the last two characters to a round mortise. You can't put together two pieces of wood with a rectangular tenon and a round mortise. There's also the related 方底円蓋, 'houteiengai' "rectangular bottom, round lid". You can't put a round lid on a rectangular pot.


    There's also the saying 木に竹を接ぐ 'ki ni take o tsugu', tring to join wood (of a tree) and bamboo. It will lack harmony, and look uneven.


    There's also the related English "to mix fire with water." Like the above about wood and bamboo, it's not impossible, but there's a good reason not to do it.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2014

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