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In Urdu language, there is a saying which is used to describe a person who eats so fast and too much humorously or sarcastically (depending on the context its connotation can vary.) They say:

Look at the way he eats. He looks like he just got out of a famine. (Literal translation.)

Meaning: As if he has been hungry for a long time and has been starving recently.

I was wondering if it makes sense in English to use "famine" in this case metaphorically?
Meanwhile, I have my doubts how it would be better-sounding!

  • He looks like he just got out of a famine.
  • He looks (as if / as though) he just got out of a famine.
  • It looks (as if / as though) he just got out of famine.

Please kindly enlighten me.

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    The equivalent idiom in English is "He looks like he hasn't eaten for a week," or better still "You would think he hadn't eaten for a week." – Kate Bunting Oct 29 '20 at 11:54
  • I wonder how can I use the word "famine" in this sense @KateBunting in a way it sounds idiomatic and natural? – A-friend Oct 29 '20 at 12:06
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    or looks like he's literally starving. Native Anglophones wouldn't use "famine" in this casually metaphoric sense, probably because culturally speaking we're not really closely associated with famine. What you will sometimes hear, even today, is things like He looked like he just got out of Auschwitz (or Belsen, Nazi concentration camp victims were often horrifically emaciated). But you probably shouldn't copy that one either. – FumbleFingers Oct 29 '20 at 12:13
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You can't use the word famine in this sense, not even hyperbolically.

You can say "He looks like he hasn't eaten for a week" or "He must have been starving!" (as suggested by comments)

Never use "like he just got out of Auschwitz". That's about as bad as casually use the "N" word.

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  • Well, then how about the following constructions @James K. : "He looks (as if / as though) he hasn't eaten for a week" OR "It looks (as if / as though) he hasn't eaten for a week" IS it an idiomatic one? – A-friend Oct 29 '20 at 13:32
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    It looks as though suggests that you seriously think it may be the case, which presumably is not the intention. – Kate Bunting Oct 29 '20 at 14:27

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