There are some idioms in English that sound funny to me. this is because I picture them in my head. For example:

Drive someone up the wall


Rub someone up the wrong way

Now it may seem strange to a native speaker but it does bring smile to my face the way I picture someone, up a wall or being angry because he was rubbed up the wrong way. But do they sound funny to a native speaker too?

  • 1
    I think that, in general, 'native speakers' (people who have learned the English spoken in their country in the normal way from early childhood) don't laugh at idioms very much. They tend to perceive the intended meaning rather than the literal one. A small child hearing 'it's raining cats and dogs!' for the first time might laugh, but would soon understand that it is water, and not animals, that is falling from the sky. Adults from a different English zone, e.g. Americans coming to live in England, may find local idioms funny at first hearing. Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:54
  • 1
    English speakers of all ages may find literal translations of some foreign idioms funny, e.g. in French avoir la moutarde qui monte au nez literally means 'having mustard up the nose' but idiomatically means 'to lose one's temper' or 'to be angry'. Another example is Tomaten auf den Augen haben in German, which literally means 'to have tomatoes in the eyes' but literally means 'to be blind (inattentive) to what is happening around one'. Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


Not really. The thing is to understand the nature of the expression.

To drive somebody up the wall is to harras or threaten them to the point that they will back up to a wall and even jump over it to escape.

The expression rub them the wrong way refers to the fur on a cat. If you rub the cat from head-to-tail, the fur will lie flat and it will be pleasant for the cat. If you rub them the other way it will cause the fur to be ruffled up and it will annoy the cat.

Every language has these expressions. They come into use due to things like famous authors using them, or fashions that come and go.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .