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"En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo."

Translation:The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot.

December 18, 2013



Have any other native English speakers never seen this idiom (or a variant) in their entire life or is it just me?


I've heard something like "the cobbler's children never have shoes" often, and it's actually true, I think! Look at how many contractors don't take care of their own house or finish any projects, and how many hairdressers' have hair that's just a mess. I can see it as an equivalent idiom, but when I gave them this, it was rejected. I can't figure out the cuchillo de palo part at all, which feels like a couple of words have been omitted.


"cuchillo de palo" goes along the lines of "wooden knife", I hope that helps you to make more sense of it :) (the literal translation of "palo" is more like timber or log)


good to know. I don't know why they translated 'de palo' as 'hate!'


Haha, funny thing. Because of an expression that goes such: me da palo hacerlo -> I hate having to do it.

It's a colloquial expression rather commonly used in Spain.


But “me da palo hacerlo” literally translates as “it gives me timber to do it”, correct? I’m still confused on why “de palo” ("of timber/wood") is being translated as “hate!”!

But knowing this other Spanish phrase is nice, thanks!

PS: why y’all hating on wood so much?? In English, “It gives me wood to do that” means something toooootally different! :-o


Chadoh, let's please not go there :P


Muchas gracias.


It probably means a very dull knife.


That's how I read it! A most unfortunate knife! Which would be dull, ironically, in the house of one who works metal. That's what this idiom is about: irony!


irony... iron... metal... blacksmith! haha


I understood it as "the knives are always dull in a blacksmith's house." It has the same type of impact as the shoemaker one and made much more sense to me (translation wise). I didn't attempt to see if it would be accepted though.


Where I'm from it is a plumber always has a leaky sink. I do excavation and my drain field has need replacing for years haha


My Spanish host mom explained this to me once. I was staying on a dairy farm, and we woke up one morning to no milk in the fridge (the farm house is a few kilometres away from the farm, so we'd usually bring milk home after the previous evening's milking). She opened the fridge and announced that there was no milk. To that, my host dad said, 'en casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo'.

Hope the context helps!


I like your story for this expression. It surely helps me to remember it well.


You're welcome :)


"In the smith's house, the knife is a stick." So similarly, in a place where a smith forges metal objects all day, he's cutting things with a wooden knife.... I just don't like how they make the translation into something no one uses in English anyway. Better to just use the (almost) direct translation in this case.


great story - gives a lot of context to the expression. thank you!


It finally makes sense to me. Been trying to wrap my mind around this for a while now.


"In the blacksmith's house the knife is wooden" is the way the Spanish phrase reads. It almost a direct equivalent in terms of meaning to "The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot."


In Slovakia we say: "Kováčová kobyla chodí bosá" meaning "The blacksmith's mare walks barefoot" i. e. without horseshoes


In Turkey we say "Terzi kendi söküğünü dikemez." literally meaning "The tailor can't sew his own rip."


In Hebrew it goes "הסנדלר הולך יחף", meaning "The shoemaker goes barefoot", not his son :)


Thanks for giving us the literal translations. I find that helps me remember it for some reason


Because you're not just remembering anymore.


This one is helpful. Thank you.


Roger_Burke, I follow your explanations. They are always perfect.Thanks.


The local mechanic's wife always used to complain that her car needed repair and that hers was always last on the list. lol


Google translate translated "cuchillo de palo" to "wooden knife", so I guess that makes the phrase "In a blacksmith's home, they use a wooden knife"?? I've never heard this phrase before, but is it meant to mean that you take things for granted (such as the blacksmith who uses a wooden knife instead of a metal one) or does it mean that despite working on something expensive, you can't afford to use it yourself? Duolingo equates it to "A shoemaker's son goes barefoot", in which case my ideas still apply (he takes shoes for granted or he cannot afford them himself).


I think both expressions imply a carelessness about your own trade. Either taking it for granted and over looking your own needs and/or being stingy about them.


The closest I've heard in English is that mechanics always drive beat-up old cars.


And that plumbers have leaky pipes.


I have never heard anything remotely like this


In my I.T. job I heard this saying all the time, usually as "The cobbler's children have no shoes." In our case it's either applied to (1) the lousy computer equipment the helpdesk folks have to put up with while supporting people with shiny new MacBooks, or (2) the poor quality of the internal administration software compared to the public-facing Internet sites it's used to support..


I've heard "the cobbler's children have no shoes" and, similar to what DaveDeRudd said, that "a mechanic's car never works".


I have heard the English phrase, but I think it may be more familiar to "older" Americans than to younger ones, maybe.....


right. Because I'm in my 50s, and to me, a cobbler is still a fruity desert that needs ice cream, not some dude who makes shoes. That's very Hans Christian Andersen.


Oy gevalt! Hans Christian Andersen? Oh well, I'm half again as old as you, so I suppose I can be forgiven for flinching at the notion that "The cobbler's children have no shoes" is lingua incognita...


I'm not even American


When I read the translation I knew it immediately but I have no recollection of where I've heard it before.


I've heard it all my life (native English speaker), although more frequently as 'the cobbler's children go barefoot.'


Growing up I always heard "cobblers' children go barefoot, and doctors' wives die young."


Never heard that 2nd part! But it did remind me of:

"Doctors make the worst patients."

The connotations are a bit different but it's the most common variation I can think of for this idiom.


I've heard it, or some variant. Usually a shoemaker. Might be a regional or generational saying.


It makes perfect sense, but I don't know of an English equivalent to this idiom.


A plumber with a leaky tap?


That's a new one to me, but I like it.


Never ever, Mallearn, and I'm nearly a thousand years old!


I've heard a saying like this about carpenters, or something but I can't bring it to mind at the moment.


Never once have I ever heard this. And I am surrounded by a family that loves using little phrases, sayings, platitudes and cliches on a constant basis. For everything that happens or is talked about. It makes them feel wise I suppose.

But yeah, this is a new one to me lol.


Not new to me, but I'm from Oregon and almost sixty years old. I heard it from my mother when I was young.


timmyblue, it's the same for me. I haven't heard this exact phrase since I was young, but I've heard variations. My favorite is "A housekeeper's house is never clean."


A plumber with a leaky tap


I havent for one ever seen this, and at the same time this question killed me because all the hint would say is "the shoemaker's son a" and then it cut off from lack of space. Wish I could learn these /without/ the loss of hearts ^^;


I have not heard this idiom either and am having trouble trying to think of a similar or relatable expression...


I have read it in books, but I have never heard a human being say it.


Never ever heard it!


My hubby, who is an IT wizard by day, often refers to himself as 'the plumber with leaky pipes', when referring to the backlog of work he wants to do on our home computer network.


Thank you! I have never heard anything even remotely similar to this in the U.S.!


Never. And I consider myself at least an intermediate English speaker.


Lol i know right


I've herd it a lot, but never by anyone who wasn't alive during WWII


"Herd" is a group of cattle. "Heard" is the past tense of "hear" and a least a few books were written before WWII. Thanks so much for illustrating my point.


Forty-one people voted this up. I realize it might sound ultra snarkey, but I am shocked at the limited vocabulary skills of people considering themselves native English speakers. Please don't take this personally as this opinion has grown over six months of observing comments all over Duolingo. And, it is not that I think I am so smart, I have a ton of limitations and recognize many of them. But, I ask, does anyone still do something as quaint as reading?


You know, us native English speakers, not taking care of our English skills and all, it's like a shoemaker, who has family that goes without shoes. I heard a saying about it once...


A skilled or knowledgeable person commonly neglects to give his own family the benefit of his expertise. Found in a number of variants.

<pre>But who is wurs shod, than the shoemakers wyfe, With shops full of newe shapen shoes all hir lyfe? [1546 J. Heywood Dialogue of Proverbs i. xi. E1V] The Shoe-maker's wife often goes in ragged shoes. ‥ Although there had been a [Methodist] Society begun here by Mr. Whitfield, yet‥the people of Gloucester are not much the better for having had so great a Prophet born amongst them. [1773 R. Graves Spiritual Quixote I. iii. ii.] His large family‥were all‥well shod, notwithstanding the Scottish proverb to the contrary. ‘The Smith's meer [mare] and the shoemaker's bairns are aye the worst shod.’ [1876 S. Smiles Life of Scotch Naturalist xvii.] Spruce in his dress, but down at heel, Cadfael noticed—proof of the old saying that the shoemaker's son is always the one who goes barefoot! [1981 ‘E. Peters’ Saint Peter's Fair 30] They say the cobbler's children go the worst shod. Dad made sure we children went dry-shod by giving us a penny-a-week for the Boot-fund. [1987 S. Stewart Lifting the Latch 58] The cobbler's children go barefoot, and Pearson, which publishes the Financial Times, has lost £233 million in six months. [2001 Spectator 4 Aug. 28] </pre>

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/the-shoemaker-s-son-always-goes-barefoot#ixzz2vEHnDpSW


Idioms and sayings are different in different parts of the world, vocabulary doesn't cover idioms necessarily, especially not from other countries. And you're right, it does sound ultra-snarky


Just because a certain idiom is not used in our area does not mean we don't read. Even if I read the phrase I don't know if I'd recognize it as an idiom right away, I might just think it was really weird and move on.


Most idioms have enough information in them to be recognizable. They embody a universal experience. In English we talk about shoemakers. In Spanish we talk about blacksmiths. But the underlying model is totally equivalent. It says that we are all too busy working with clients and our jobs to provide the same level of professional services to our own families. I don't think anyone should need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. That does not mean idioms are easy when you cross languages and struggle with some of the grammar issues. I probably did idioms 10 to 15 times before passing with no hearts left. However, the other day I was talking to my wife's father in Venezuela. In Spanish, he asked how I was doing? Without thinking I replied "Barriga llena, corazon contenta" (Full stomach, contented heart). The answer should actually have been, "I am in horrible pain from knee surgery, but I could not assemble that thought on the fly. Suddenly, from the back of my primitive mind this phrase that can be used in polite conversation flys out of my mouth with no mental translation. That is the "holy cow" moment when you do a baby step. Then the depression comes when you realize how much further you have to go before you can join in serious conversation.


I never said they weren't useful, just that you are wrong in implying that those who don't recognize the English idioms are idiots who don't read.


I think what bothers me most about this is the combination of not knowing a fairly common English idiom, and assuming that one's own limited exposure is somehow a standard, and means it's not a common phrase at all.


Nothing someone says before the word "but" really counts.


What's the Spanish phrase for 'know-it-all'?


Sabelohondo o sabelotodo.


Ah, literal translation: "In the house of the blacksmith, wooden knife."


Yup, DuoLingo accepted, "In the house of a blacksmith, there is a wooden knife." This translation and the more literal translation of vjsteffen (above) makes sense in English. DuoLingo correctly indicates that this is equivalent to the English idiomatic expression, "The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot." I'm sure we can't always assume that there will be a similar idiom in the two languages though.


Yes, I like this translation much better! Especially since I'm in the boat with a lot of other English speakers where I've never heard the shoemaker's one! The idiom makes sense once it's translated, but I have just never heard that English idiom, so this translation helps a lot. Thanks!


Nice one. I like that better, and seeing as I've never heard the suggested translation, I'm going to stick with the literal.


That actually makes sense to me, because a wooden knife wouldn't cut it in his line of business, but PERSONALLY (in his residence) the blacksmith will use crap tools. I like the mechanic analogy as well.


In the blacksmith's house, KNIFE HATE!



Bad hover. There's a little down-arrow at the bottom of the hover, and if you move your cursor over that, you'll get three extra lines with "stick / post / handle".


It did the "hate" thing (and dislike) to me when I hovered over "palo"- and also said that I peeked and that it was unfair (to peek). Yes, I did peek. I'm here to learn and I peek when I need it; I already knew how to translate it literally, and wanted to see what English idiom they used. We all come here for different reasons and should use it as it suits us. "you peeked" - Gave me a good laugh! Translation is tough - I'm very impressed with Duo Lingo, and that they are open to feedback.


I have always heard this as "the cobbler's children have no shoes" but that is apparently not acceptable. Perhaps a modern equivalent would be "The IT Support Person's children have crappy computers."


....or the IT support person's children use papyrus, LOL!


Hey! I upgraded them to a perfectly good abacus this Christmas I'll have you know. LOL


I wrote "A shoemaker's children go barefoot." and it was marked wrong because I used an indefinite article instead of a definite one. Go figure. When translating literally in other exercises, it makes a difference but the meaning doesn't change here. I'm guessing for you, it didn't recognize cobbler == shoemaker.


"En casa de herreo, cuchillo de palo" is an old spanish saying. What is actually means is "In the house of the blacksmith they eat with a wooden spoon." My mother is from Spain. I asked her, and she said they use it all the time. I guess it really means "don't live beyond your means".


So your mother knows a different version, because cuchara is spoon and we have been given cuchillo which is knife. I do wish the blacksmith could make a few utensils for his family. A wooden spoon, I could make do with, but a wooden knife would be a lot harder. It is as sad as "the shoemaker's children go barefoot", but not as bad as "the doctor's wife dies young".


My goodness. Yes, sorry for the mistranslation. For some reason I told my mom that saying and that is what she said back to me. I can't imagine anyone using a wooden knife. I wish there was an explanation for more of these sayings, and what countries tend to use them more frequently.


In Poland we have idiom like this and it goes "Szewc bez butów chodzi" which translates as "the shoemaker's children are ill-shod" but it literaly means "shoemaker goes barefoot". We use it to highlight this odd situation when one works in certain profession but somehow he lacks/neglected this in his own life. This kind of situations are quite common i think. In Polish this idiom has neither positive nor negative connotations.


In Russian we have "сапожник без сапог" which literally means "shoemaker without boots" or, less literally, "shoemaker who have no boots". So it isn't even a complete sentence in many occasions, it is used as a part of sentence in the same manner as in Polish.


In Hungarian we say "A suszter cipője mindig lyukas." = "the shoemaker's shoes always have holes in them" :)


Aha! because the blacksmith can't be bothered to make metal implements for his own family so they have to use wooden ones! That makes sense.


I've never heard "The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot" before.


I first put "The cobbler's son goes barefoot."- That's what I have always heard in English, and it marked it wrong.


Once upon a time, I encountered the phrase, "En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo" on the legendary quest of DuoLingo. This was the last question of the lesson for me, and I had no remaining hearts. I was planning to try to solve the riddle my own, but not type anything until perusing the drop-down hints. I didn't know what 'herrero' meant, and I couldn't remember which utensil was 'cuchillo.'

I hovered my mouse over 'herrero' and received no hints! I hovered over 'cuchillo' and still received no hints! I began to panic. It was as if Duo knew exactly how to ruin me in my darkest moment. And to think I trusted the old hoot!

My situation looked dark indeed. So I decided to turn to an old friend for advice. Many refer to him as G.T., and he never leaves his home: translate.google.com. He received me with reluctance, as my internet connection has been having troubles as of late, but I convinced him to allow me one question.

I carefully copied and pasted the posed riddle from DuoLingo into Google Translate. G.T. contorted his face in thought and, after a few moments, he had a answer for me. It was so simple and so obvious. I don't know how I didn't see it before. The answer G.T. gave me was "In-house shoemaker stick," an ancient proverb that every boy and girl has heard and completely understood.

I nearly typed the answer into DuoLingo for submitting, but then I remembered some advice my friend Honest Abe had once given me via the World Wide Web, "The problem with information on the internet is that it can't always be trusted." I decided to verify G.T.'s answer with his brother Google Search (in their culture, the surname comes first).

I copied and pasted the question into Search's database, and he quickly gave me a link to DuoLingo as my second option. I clicked the link and was transported to this very page, where I discovered the true answer I had been seeking, "The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot."

G.T. had been trying to thwart and discomfit me! Duo must have paid him off! Luckily I made it to Google Search before the owl had a chance to bribe him. I typed my new answer into DuoLingo and was received without the usual nitpicking of missing accent marks, misspellings, etc. I had done it! I had won the battle!

Now it's time to collect my two lingots for completing the Idioms quest and move on to Subjunctive/Imperative Verbs. The moral of the story is that no matter how boring your life is, you can always tell a good story that's completely true to entertain others and make yourself seem interesting.


The Spanish idiom instantly made sense to me, as in Lithuanian we literally say ¨a shoemaker without shoes¨.

[deactivated user]

    Agree, same in Russian.


    I'm a native speaker of American English and the closest I could come to an equivalent would be "Doctors make the worst patients" but that's not the same as the cobbler idiom, although we don't have a whole lotta cobblers here anymore..


    But, "Doctor cure thyself" gets close.


    Agreed! The connotations are different because it's implying a willfulness and carelessness, instead of cheapness and carelessness - but yeah that's the most common equivalent I can think of.


    I like this lesson a lot but I'm sad that as far as I have seen they didn't incorporate my favorite idiom that I learned in class: "no me importa un pepino." It means "I couldn't care less" but translates to "I don't give a cucumber"


    Me suda el pepino :P?


    A literal translation of this is funny. "In the blacksmith's house, knife of hate!"

    I think looking for a corresponding idiom in English might not be the right way to translate these things, at least not for learning. Something like, "In the blacksmith's house they hate knives" gets the sentiment across while using some of the same words.


    "de palo" = "wooden". Even if you're not looking for a corresponding idiom in English, to say that they hate knives changes the intended meaning. The wooden knives are in contrast to knives made of steel which the blacksmith would be capable of making, and likely makes for other people.


    Isn't "palo" also hate? That's one of the hover-over translations


    It seems that it can mean hate also, but in this idiom they're referring to a wooden knife. If you put your mouse over the arrow at the bottom of the popup you'll see that one of their translations for palo is wood.

    Or take a look at the various meanings for palo (they include "de palo" specifically too in #5): http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/palo


    wow, palo has a lot of meanings.


    Palo is a noun meaning pole or trunk. Here in the American Southwest we have Palo Verde trees. When young, the trunks and branches are a bright green (hence "palo verde"). "Palear" and "paliar" are verbs meaning to "shovel" and to "palliate". I am not sure if either can be conjugated to "palo." The Spanish speakers I know do not recognize any connection to "hate." The one other meaning of "palo" that I know of is a shot of liquor and I suspect that comes from the feeling that you have been hit in the head with a pole after drinking the shot. If anyone can actually produce a connection to "hate," please pass it on to the rest of us. On further checking in my Velasquez Spanish English dictionary there is no reference to "hate" but "dar palo" can refer to something turning out contrary to expectation. After looking at the entry in Spanishdcit.com (me da palo hacerlo/decirlo -> I hate having to do/say it ) my references said it should say ("me da pena hacerlo/decirlo"), but did allow that it might be different in Spain. Still the believed th entry was in error.


    I don't think palo means hate, really ever. At least not in my experience and, I have been speaking Spanish every day with native speakers for 30 years.


    I completely agree. Translating as the infrequently-used english idiom lessens our vocabulary-building, too. I can certainly get the meanings of these phrases from the words. They're pretty simple, thus their long and frequent usage.

    • 2091

    I have heard "The baker's son always goes hungry." I'm surprised no one has mentioned that one yet in this discussion.

    EDIT: I have a neighbor who works as a landscape architect, and his yard looks horrible. I had a general contractor whose house is always in need of some kind of construction upgrade or finishing. (Then again, he still hasn't finished the project on my house!)


    What does this actually mean in English?


    I have also heard this as "the shoemaker's children go barefoot and the doctor's wife dies young." The phrase refers to a kind of irony in working hard to support the family: The shoemaker/doctor are spending all their time on paying customers (to feed their families) but ultimately the family suffers because while they have money for food (for example) they lack shoes/healthcare/etc. It can also speak to a kind of professional "burn out." If you spend all day making shoes for paying customers, you are too tired to spend your free time making shoes for your family (that are never paid for).


    I think it's less about burnout than the sad irony of working in a low-paying job of selling pricey goods. The shoemaker can't afford the products he makes or repairs. I've never heard the one about doctors.


    I don't think there is an intent to give a reason for the situation. For whatever reason, the shoemaker doesn't make or repair his children's shoes. My sister owns a cleaning company, she rarely cleans her own home; my husband manages financial matters for a city, but won't track his personal budget. There could be a lot of different reasons for people not using their professional skills for their family's benefit.


    "The shoemaker goes barefoot" is also an English idiom...so that should also be correct right? It marked me wrong x\


    I have always heard it used with the cobbler's (or shoemaker's) children - but the meaning would be almost the same.


    I think this would be closer... It's an idiomatic Mexican expression. "In the house of the blacksmith, one eats with a wooden spoon." This makes sense with "wooden knife" because the blacksmith had no time to make iron silverware for himself. See link: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=39-sWW7QvUYC&pg=PA51&dq=cuchillo+de+palo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4fXXUrfnDIqqsQSzuID4Bg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cuchillo%20de%20palo&f=false


    In French we would say "Un cordonnier mal chaussé"


    This reminds me of how people who work in the chicken processing plant around here refuse to eat chicken at home because they get tired of looking at it all day.


    Could it be they know how unsanitary those plants are?


    I'm sure that has a bit to do with it too lol


    I find this very confusing. Id rsther have the literal translation and then put a similar english idiom to it. Otherwise you come out tranlating a blacksmith as a shoemaker


    I wrote 'A tradesman never works at home' , which I think is the modern version. Obviously too modern for Duolingo!!


    Love it. In the house of the blacksmith, the knife is wooden.


    I put "in the blacksmith's house are wooden knives" not accepted. The other way doesn't make as much sense in english.


    Don't try "physician, cure thyself", though it is a similar meaning.


    I'm guessing the literal translation might be something along the lines of, "in the blacksmith's house, the knife is dull,"?


    No, the literal translation was given above. It's "In the blacksmith's house, a wooden knife." That is, even though the head of the household forges iron for a living, his own knife is only wood.


    Как много слов на испанском и как коротко на русском...


    I think another right translation can be "The shoemaker's son always WALKS barefoot." DL marked this as 'wrong' and said GOES is the right word, but for this kind of non-literal translation I think WALKS should be appropriate, too.


    I think that would imply they choose to go without the fruits of their labor like they save them for special occasions or try to make them last, whereas the idiom implies they are without the items of their trade due to cheapness or carelessness.


    The cobbler's children have no shoes" sounds right. But we often paraphrase this in a number of different ways.


    Why doesn't "the shoemaker's son has no shoes" work


    Hit the Report button and say "My answer should be accepted." They can't predict and account for every possible way a translation could be worded, but if you report it, they'll add that wording to the list.


    Why do they translate only the equivalent expression (and not the actual Spanish translation)? It makes it really hard to remember. I think I could work out what "In a blacksmith's house, a wooden knife" means. Having it mixed up with the idiom about the shoemaker in English is confusing.


    pff, you need to know english to be able to recognize some of the play-words used here


    Herrero means "blacksmith". 'In the blacksmith's house is a knife of wood' makes a lot more sense than the given translation. Sometimes Duo attempts to match idioms that just don't match at all, and a more literal translation would work better, IMO.


    A lot of these idioms don't have proper English equivalents.


    Wow, this really does not seem like the literal translation.


    Not perfect but similar: "A physician is the worst patient".


    In brazilian portuguese is quite the same: "Em casa de ferreiro, espeto de pau"


    that question is extremely confusing to me...


    Never heard that one before!


    Hi, do any of you know the literal translation?


    Well I found it... In the blacksmith house they have wooden knives It helped me remember... hope it's useful to you too


    If you hover over the words the translation given does not match!!


    if the idiom is about a shoemaker, why is the recommended translation for herrero blacksmith?? Anyway, what does this idiom mean?


    Because the "English" idiom is about a shoe maker. The "Spanish" idiom is about a blacksmith.


    I think this would be closer... It's an idiomatic Mexican expression. "In the house of the blacksmith, one eats with a wooden spoon." This makes sense with "wooden knife" because the blacksmith had no time to make iron silverware for himself. See link: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=39-sWW7QvUYC&pg=PA51&dq=cuchillo+de+palo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4fXXUrfnDIqqsQSzuID4Bg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cuchillo%20de%20palo&f=false


    basic meaning... One who does ___ as a profession, often neglects that aspect of life at home. Like a chef whose family eats peanut butter sandwiches, because the chef is tired of cooking at the end of the day, or a mechanic whose own cars don't work, or...

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