Spilt milk

Yesterday my wife was counseling me to stop stressing about something which had already happened and which was out of my hands. In the course of our conversation, she said, “Não chorar sobre leite derramado.” Which translates to, “Don’t cry over spilt milk.”

This immediately shifted my brain down a different path. “Seriously?” I asked. “That’s the Portuguese phrase? Or are you translating the English?”

“What English?” she asked. Which led to a mutual fascination that our two languages and cultures have produced exactly the same phrase to convey the same advice. How did that happen? Was it originally an ancient Latin phrase, which then carried into both of these languages as they emerged from their common ancestor?

I love this kind of thing! It’s what makes language fun. Plus, now I know how to advise someone against unnecessary stress in both English and Portuguese. That’s got to be worth something.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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9 Responses to Spilt milk

  1. Alma says:

    We have it in Swedish too, it’s a very old expression. Gråt inte över spilld mjölk. I remember learning it in English ages ago and finding the similarity funny.

  2. M. says:

    “Nie płacz nad rozlanym mlekiem.”
    Now you know it in Polish too 😉

  3. Jana says:

    Well, in Czech it is exactly the same:
    “Neplač nad rozlitým mlékem.”

  4. oregon expat says:

    This is fascinating! Wonder how many other languages use this expression? It appears to be far more common than one might expect.

  5. Inge says:

    Wellllll.. as far as i know it doesn’t exist in Dutch. 🙂

  6. Jbrandao says:

    Damn the Dutch… those milk-haters! :p

  7. H.S. says:

    Exactly the same here in Italy too: “inutile piangere sul latte versato”.

  8. Styx says:

    We have it In french too, “Rien ne sert de pleurer sur le lait renversé”

  9. D. says:

    We have the same advice in Germany too:
    “Über vergossene Milch soll man nicht jammern.”

    But we also have a version without milk 😉
    “Geschehen ist geschehen.”
    which means “done is done”

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