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Meet some of the world’s most colorful idioms

Mauritian Creole: "Cook and pour!" Used to spur someone to do something quick and well. Thai: "Cowness hasn't gone, buffaloness intervened" When an existing problem hasn't been solved, but another problem emerged, causing the situation to turn even worse than before.

Left: An idiom from Mauritian Creole: “Cook and pour!” It’s used to spur someone to do something quick and well. At right, a Thai idiom: “Cowness hasn’t gone, buffaloness intervened.” It’s used when an existing problem hasn’t been solved, but another problem emerged, causing the situation to turn even worse than before. Illustrations by Masahito Leo Takeuchi

“In a country with no dogs, cats are forced to bark.” This idiom in Georgian is colorful and cute — but what does it mean? According to Georgian translator Levan Lashauri: “When due to lack of qualified people, a task is given to, or done by, someone who is unable to do it properly.” (You know this idea will come in handy.) Cultural context is key to understanding some of the wisest and most pungent phrases in any language. Our volunteer TED Translators overcome this challenge all the time when they subtitle TED Talks — they build a cultural frame for speakers’ ideas with the words they choose to preserve meaning for viewers in their language.

This week at TEDSummit, 47 TED Translators are using idioms from their native languages to connect with Summit attendees. The idioms were illustrated by London-based artist Masahito Leo Takeuchi. His illustrations have been turned into stickers that attendees can collect from the translators they meet. Translators explain to attendees what the idiom means, oftentimes in exchange for a little song and dance, or an idiom in the attendee’s own language. One TED Fellow collected them all.

Check out the full set of idiom stickers, and watch this short video about how they’re connecting TEDSummit attendees.

This post first appeared on the TED Translators blog.