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10 Dance-Related Sayings From Around the Globe

By James Chapman
COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN
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Don’t be afraid to have a little boogie while you read these phrases, excerpted fromA World of Wisdom: Illustrated Sayings and Proverbs From All Over the Globe.

Do you love to bust-a-move? Get jiggy with it? Party down? So does the rest of the world! Some things are just part of the life all over the planet, and dancing is absolutely one of them. The moves might change here and there, but everyone loves to get down!

This passion for dancing has generated some great expressions. If these phrases—excerpted from A World of Wisdom: Illustrated Sayings and Proverbs From All Over the Globe, which is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign—inspire you, don’t be afraid to have a little boogie while you read.

1. "LIKE DANCING ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF" // WALES

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

“Dawnsio ar y dibyn.”

An equivalent phrase in English would be "playing with fire," as in doing something dangerous without considering the consequences. The Welsh version is bit more vibrant, though—and no chance of getting burnt.

2. "A BAD BALLERINA BLAMES THE HEM OF HER SKIRT" // POLAND

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

“Zlej baletnicy przeszkadza rabek u spodnicy.”

“A bad workman blames his tools” is a classic phrase in the English language. Excuses are international, though, and different professions capture the imagination around the world when creating these phrases. In Poland, it turns out ballet beats workmen.

3. "A HUNGRY BEAR DOES NOT DANCE" // GREECE

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

“Νηστικό αρκούδι δεν χορεύει.”

Just as a hungry bear needs something to nibble on before it can dance, this is used for situations where you need to get paid in order to work. The same phrase crops up in Bulgaria and Turkey, too.

4. "THE SPARROW, UNTIL 100, WILL NOT FORGET ITS DANCE" // JAPAN

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

“雀百まで踊り忘れず”

Not many sparrows make it to 100 years old, sadly. In fact, most only live about three years, but their extra fresh dance moves are so ingrained that they’ll never forget them.



5. "WINE MAKES THE OLD FOLK DANCE" // ITALY

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

“Il vino fa ballare i vecchi.”

Italy is one of the top wine producers in the world, so it makes sense that the drink has found its way into an Italian phrase or two. Wine certainly gets the dance muscles moving once you’re old enough.

6. "TRYING TO DANCE LIKE SOMEONE ELSE CAN HURT YOUR NECK" // ETHIOPIA

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

"Akka ebaluutti sirbaan morma nama jallisaa."

According to this Oromo saying, trying to fit in with the crowd isn’t always the best idea. If you find yourself with a hip new break-dancing crew, trying their dance moves might lead to a pain in the neck—so maybe you’ve got to be yourself.

7. "WITH MONEY, THE DOG DANCES" // MEXICO

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

"Con el dinero, baila el perro."

Money can make the unexpected happen. If you save up enough and invest in the best dog-trainers around, you’ll have a doggie dance squad in no time. Anything is possible when you’ve got the cash.

8. "THOSE WHO CAN'T DANCE SAY THE FLOOR IS SLOPING" // IRAQ

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

"الما يعرف يرقص يقول الأرض عوجا"

It turns out dance moves are a common subject for excuses in some places. Other dancey versions of this saying exist in Russia, India, Turkey, and even Malaysia, where the bad dancers say "the floor is a seesaw."



9. "IT'S HARD TO DANCE IN BORROWED CLOTHES" // NIGERIA

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

"Person wey borrow cloth go party no dey dance too much."

When you’re borrowing anything from a friend, it’s important to be extra careful. They’ve trusted you with these clothes, so you probably shouldn’t use your most adventurous dance moves in them.

10. "DANCE BY YOURSELF AND YOU CAN JUMP AS MUCH AS YOU WANT" // GREECE

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

"Μοναχός σου χόρευε, κι’ όσο θέλεις πήδα."

The joys of freedom! Doing things as a group is complicated, as anyone who’s tried to organize a meal out can tell you. But if you’re going solo, you can do whatever you like—nothing can stand in your way!

COURTESY OF SOUNDIMALS/JAMES CHAPMAN

James Chapman is an illustrator living in Manchester, England, who focuses mostly on language-related projects. You can help fund his latest, A World of Wisdom: Illustrated Sayings and Proverbs From All Over the Globe, on Kickstarter.

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