There must be hundreds and thousands of expressions of bafflement, surprise or dismay throughout the world. However, *”Uff-Dah” is my favorite. Of course there are other such exclamations around the world. Many folks go right to the Yiddish “oy vey!” to express how it is when things are not going to plan—or worse.
I had an aunt who, when faced with something surprising or startling, would say: “oh, my stars and garters!” An old friend of mine still says “buttons and fish!” instead of swearing. A dear British friend of mine, when frustrated or snappish, will say “oh, bugger!”
A funny expression my mother found when she was putting together her wonderful genealogy book, “Christian Feero, Loyalist of New Brunswick,” came from a blood relative of hers. Mr. and Mrs. Amos Feero had a wooden shelf above their bed on which were several precious tea cups and saucers. One night, their cat jumped up on the shelf, and knocked down several bits of china. The Mrs. sat bolt upright in bed yelling, “good God, Amos, get up! The cat’s broke all the dishes!”
I went looking for other expressions and found some on Hostelling International:
“wie eine Made im Speck leben”
In German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live a life of luxury.” This has become a completely natural phrase in the German language, but it paints a strange picture when you think about it.
“I’ll have a wee cup of coffee. My Glasgow accent has greatly softened, but I do refer still to things being ‘wee‘, instead of little or small.” – Graeme Taylor, USA/ Scotland
“Qué padre!” As an expression to something cool or to express you like something, we use it in Mexico the same way some say “those shoes are cool” or “that hostel is great” – Sofia Garcia Torrentera, Mexico
- “In Southern USA, ‘Bless your heart!’ (not meant as a compliment, depending on context.)” – David Matheny, USA (actually, it’s a genteel coverup for “F*** you!”)
- “Päästää sammakko suusta” – Finland
The Finnish say ‘letting a frog out of your mouth’ is synonymous with saying the wrong thing, along with many other nature-inspired sayings.
“Hygge” – Denmark
This Danish word, pronounced ‘hooga’ roughly translates to cosiness although it’s a concept quite difficult to pinpoint. It illuminates the Danish soul, and Christmas is the hygge high season.
- “Pelillos a la mar” – Brianda & Maria, Spain
An unusual Spanish turn of phrase translating to “little hairs to sea,” often used to cool down a heated discussion which seems to have no resolution.
So, there you go—there are all kinds of funny and interesting sayings all over the world. For me personally, I often use “oy vey!” for those irritating and annoying things that happen, and “uff dah” when I feel tired and overwhelmed. Both make me laugh, which takes much of the sting out of a bad or irritating situation.
What ever floats your boat…
*From Wikipedia: Uff da (sometimes also spelled huffda, uff-da, uffda, uff-dah, oofda, ufda, ufdah, oofta, or uf daa) is an exclamation or interjection expressing bafflement, surprise, or dismay. Of Norwegian origin, the phrase was brought by Scandinavian Americans in the Upper Midwest, New England, and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States during the 19th century. The Swedish exclamation oj då is similar in meaning and usage.