What is the Origin of the Weirdest Bulgarian Expressions

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | April 20, 2018, Friday // 16:36
Bulgaria: What is the Origin of the Weirdest Bulgarian Expressions Source: Twitter

Folk wisdom has been remembered and applied for decades through hundreds of weird phrases. And there is one for every occasion - from total pratfall, to joy and health. But few know the origins and history of these expressions, and how they got established and put roots in the daily speech of Bulgarians. 

Here's the origin of some the most common phrases:

Изложи се като кифладжия - You made a fool of yourself like a cocktail bun maker

The history of this phrase dates from the 16th century in Austria. A well-known theatrical comedian was upset at the bakers making the famous "Viennese Cocktail Buns" because they reduced the weight but raised the price. On his next act on the stage of the theater there were small buns instead of buttons on his costume.

This made the producers angry and they gave him to court. The judge decided that the actions of the comic were an insult and he had to pay a solid fine or go to jail. He was not rich enough to pay, and he preferred to spend a week behind the bars.

When the time came for the next show, he was asked how was it in jail. "I did not starve. The prison guard's daughter liked me very much and secretly handed me buns through the cell lock, "he replied.

The cocktail bun makers decided not to sue again, but this situation making them look so easily offended has given rise to "You made a fool of yourself like a cocktail bun maker".

Къде зимуват раците - Where do the crabs go hibernating

The phrase "I will show you where the crabs go hibernating" is perceived as a threat similar to "I will give a lesson" and "I will teach you". In fact, it comes from Russia.

In the winter, the landlords made balls and receptions where "winter" crabs were considered a delicacy. The landlords claimed that the crabs are truly delicious only in the months in whose names the letter "p" is contained, ie. from September to April.

Looking for crab on the bottom of often frozen rivers and lakes is an unpleasant experience and can bring a severe cold. Therefore, to provide this delicacy, they send the undisciplined fortress peasants.

The practice has been common enough to enter the language as a metaphorical expression - "you will see where the crabs are hibernating". This is the final warning for a severe punishment.

Оплачи се на арменския поп - Go complain to the Armenian Bishop

According to one of the most widespread legends, it is an Armenian archbishop who was very close to the Sultan. He interceded for Bulgarians who had been exiled to Diyarbakir and sentenced to death.

According to the legend, their families turned to the Armenian archbishop who was close to the Sultan, and he asked the ruler to release the Bulgarians. So they were pardoned.

And why today the expression "Go complain to the Armenian Bishop" is considered a sign of hopelessness and a lost cause and not of salvation and a good way out of the situation, is unknown.

Сульо и Пульо - Sulyo and Pulyo

For centuries society has been divided into classes, and classes have meant quality. "Quality people" rise upwards, and those who remain below are poor, bottom of society, the sludge.

And by sludge is meant not so much out of the law. The sludge is poor and socially weak, struck by fate. Sulyo and Pulyo were born as an expression in that direction - Sulyo was the one who is shabby, ragged.(the words in Bulgarian: изсуленият, дрипавият)

His name comes from drooping, falling, sliding, slipping. He is scattered, his clothes hang on rags. Pulyo is the one who is staring with wide-eyes because he does not see (the word in Bulgarian: пуля се). Sulyo and Pulyo mean literally a poor man and a blind man. When it is said that Sulyo and Pulyo went somewhere, it means that some people from the lower classes have gathered.

Куче марка - Dog Brand

The expression dog brand is widely known and often used in everyday life. It is related to a picture that in 1899 became the emblem of one of the leading British record companies - The Gramophone Company.

The picture depicts a dog that, bowed his head, sits and listens to music coming out of the funnel of a gramophone . Back in the day the gramophones from this brand were sold in Bulgaria. Apparently for Bulgarian grandparents and grandmothers the English name was incomprehensible and difficult to reproduce, so these record players have gained popularity simply as a the Dog Brand.

Today the expression dog brand is used as a colloquial definition of a product of unknown origin and low quality.


Пращам за зелен хайвер - I send someone to look for green caviar

"I'm sending someone to look for green caviar" is used in the sense of "sending someone for something in vain," "sending him for something that does not exist" or cheating. As we know, caviar is the popular name of fish eggs, which are not green. (although there is something similar called sea grapes)

According to some sources, the expression is purely Bulgarian in origin and is based on a fairy tale. It tells of a woman who had a lover and wanted to spend more time alone with him. So she sent her husband out of the house, pretending to be very ill, and he had to go and seek her the only cure for her disease - "green caviar".

According to most people, this phrase has begun the expression in question and has begun to be used in the sense of something in vain, misleading.

И чеп за зеле на става от теб - You are not qualified even for a cabbage nub

"Чеп" or a nub comes from Turkish, it is a branch and in folk tradition the cabbage grows from it. Cabbage is a vegetable and its nub is not suitable to eat and put in a meal. And this is the most unusable and tasteless part. From there - "the cabbage nub is useless."


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