When barbers have nothing to do, they cut each other’s hair.

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by seitt, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. seitt Senior Member


    Please, do you have a saying like, “When barbers have nothing to do, they cut each other’s hair.”?

    If so, how do you say it exactly? Of course, you may use a different profession as your example.

    All the best, and many thanks,

  2. Xaggelos New Member


    Two or three sayings come to mind, each with different extra nuances in addition to idleness. But first I'd like you to explain, if you please, how exactly you perceive the meaning of your saying, as it is not in any of my dictionaries (including one for idioms), nor did a Google search return any results (except a link back to Wordreference.com, actually to your own posts!). Thanks.
  3. seitt Senior Member

    Many thanks – to me it means that when people of a particular profession have nothing else to do, they practise on each other.

    But I must confess I'm not 100% sure, so please let me all two/three saying which you say come to mind.

    I'm really having a lot of difficulty pinning this saying down!

    Ah, yes! The context in which I first heard the saying was in a kind of documentary about a film director who was temporarily unable to make films.

    He got out his mobile phone and started filming the scene outside his window and his friend said, “When barbers have nothing to do, they cut each other’s hair!”
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2013
  4. sotos Senior Member

    A saying for professionals who are temporarily with no job or customers is "Βαράει μύγες" (He is killing flies). There is a saying similar to yours but is more appropriate for the case that someone is idle and does something naughty to kill time: "Δουλειά δεν είχε ο διάολος, βαρούσε τα παιδιά του". (The devil had no job and was bitting up his kids). Often the first part is used alone ("Δουλειά δεν είχε ο διάολος ...").
  5. Xaggelos New Member

    Actually, Sotos has already written about two of the three I had in mind and, unfortunately, I can't remember now what was the third one... Sorry, I'll write it if and when I remember it again. Anyway, in the two mentioned by Sotos, the common element is the verb used: "Βαράει" (present tense) and "βαρούσε" (past continuous tense), i.e., respectively, "He beats/is beating" (no simple/continuous distinction for the present in Greek) and "was beating" (the English past continuous tense mostly corresponds to the Greek "paratatikos" tense).

    Note: Sotos' translation of "βαράει" as "is killing" is legitimate, since beating a fly with your palm against, say, a desk or wall (or between your palms, in the air) results in its being crushed and killed. However, I thought you'd like to know the exact meaning of "βαράει", hence my literal translation. But otherwise the meaning of "βαράει" in no way includes killing too.
  6. Xaggelos New Member

    I think the meaning of your proverb about barbers is that professionals can't help doing their job, even if there's no real, sellable product coming out of it. It's like it's become their second nature and they wouldn't know what to do with their time without it. In this sense, I'd say the Greek saying about the devil beating up his kids is quite close, except for the added element of violence, which in the Greek saying may imply a somehow harmful or at least undesirable effect.
  7. Andrious Senior Member

    One more saying that I can think of is "Σε δουλειά να βρισκόμαστε" which means "Just to do something".
  8. seitt Senior Member

    Thank you all so much.
    No doubt you will rightly take this as evidence of a misspent youth, but I remember this in the form, "Όταν ο διάβολος δεν έχει δουλειά, γ**άει τα παιδιά του". That would be Ελασσόνα in the late 70s.
    Another reference to my halcyon days in Greece - that verb always makes me think of the song "Βάρα νταγερέ". I wonder if it's the same meaning here. In fact, let me start a new thread on it...

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