"Once in a blue moon" has to do with an event occurrence not an actual item. It can replace the word "rarely". " A fly is white once in a blue moon." How about a "white elephant", because I have never heard of a saying in the USA about a "white fly", but I was able to understand it easily, while "hens' teeth" I had to think about. It was so foreign an expression. We cannot use "white elephant", because it has come to mean something different now. Of course, we have white tigers at the zoo. Wait I have found something, "rare bird" probably comes from the "rare as hen's teeth", but it is more current. You just don't hear that country colloquialism in the big cities. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rare%20bird
I respect your 365 day streak and I have come here to support dtb89. "Once in a blue moon" TECHNICALLY refers to the astronomical event; however, it is often used to say that something happens rarely. Like say a guy never uses his pool, and his neighor asks why. The guy might say, " I use it. I go in once in a blue moon" meaning rarely, but the pool does get used. (USA Native, East Coast) Australian user below has heard this before, I never have
Yes, exactly. A thing is rare, while an occurrence happens rarely. It is a slight difference "Once in a blue moon" replaces the adverb "rarely". So you could say the Hope Diamond is as rare as hen's teeth or whatever better expression we come up with, while finding a diamond as big as the Hope Diamond happens once in a blue moon. I was also unfamiliar with the expression "Rare as hen's teeth" and I am from the west coast of the USA, California), but I understand that it is a rural expression heard in some states and UK and even Ireland. Oh, I think the one I usually use is "as rare as a four leaf clover". Bringing up Ireland reminded me of it, since we talk of four leaf clovers around St. Patrick's day mostly. Although I have always looked for them and never found one, they might occur occasionally. So that expression means "rare", while I am told that the "rare as hen's teeth" means "extremely rare".
I'm very familiar with it and have heard it many times on tv and read it in articles. It is an old fashioned saying, but by no means dead. If you google "as rare as" ... hens teeth is what comes up first.
"Once in a blue moon" is about the infrequency of an occurrence/event. Ex: We go out to eat only once in a blue moon.
"Rare as hens teeth," on the other hand, is about how uncommon a "thing" is.
Ex Phone booths are as rare as hen's teeth these days since everyone has cell phones.
A white elephant has always meant expensive encumberance. It comes from India, where a white elephant was seen as sacred and could not be killed or worked. They were given as presents, which meant the recipient had the expense of feeding the very large animal.
In Britain, it is also used for bric-a-brac stalls: usually full of things that don't have a use.
My family is from Northern Mississippi/Southern Tennessee...farmers from late 1800's-1970's...very common phrase used in our region through S Louisiana, Alabama and (I suspect) Georgia. People raised on farms and with livestock often use idioms that seem to remain "on the farm," kindof like a secret language. My dad used to say that helpful children were "handier than a pocket on your shirt," while klutzy people could "destroy an iron anvil with a feather pillow," and ticked-off people were described as being "madder than a wet hen." My 84-year-old mother just used another one the other day which I had never heard her use before in referring to someone who had received something they needed. She said they "took to it like a kitten to a hot brick." Idioms are simply word pictures that are locally colorful ways of saying things so that people "see" what you are talking about.
I've just asked my husband who has lived in NJ and NH and he's heard of it. But he can't explain how he has heard of it. He said hens don't have teeth. I've lived with him many years and I told him I've never heard him say this expression. The moral of the story: don't use it or you have to do a lot explaining about how this all started at Duolingo.
I'm mostly from the American southwest (Arizona) and I'm familiar with the expression "Scarce as hens teeth," although probably from my father's side of the family (Missouri). It might be an Ozark saying descended from French settlers. I've also heard "Rare as a black swan" as a British expression, although after finding Australia that might have become less common.
I only know the saying because it was the name of my old elementary school textbook. It was for the advanced readers and taught about rare parables, sayings, idioms and those kind of things. Although I'm not sure if I've ever heard the phrase used in daily language though.
I know something about hen's teeth is a french idiom, but I've never heard that in English. I'm a native English speaker, grew up in and have lived in a few places in north east United States.
From the other comments I've read, this seems to be a UK expression. Although I could be mistaken.
I looke it up and "extremely rare" is the translation. I had never heard the hen's teeth saying, and when i was strengthening the idioms a week later, I still couldn' t remember. I entered "extremely rare" but Dou said it was wrong. I had already run out of hearts, and this was my last question. Bummer.
A few hours before i saw your comment i came across this idiom in a greek book i'm currently reading (Ὄρνιθες by Aristophanes) - pretty awesome to see how long some phrases/idioms survive. Also i don't think we have a similar expression in german; the only thing that pops up in my had would be "selten wie ein weißer Rabe" (as rare as a white raven) but i don't know how common this is.
Rare, but not non-existent. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2006/feb/23/research.highereducation
Idioms are like that. In one place they consider white flies rare, in others they refer to hen's teeth, basically it's whatever is considered rare in an area and is used frequently in that area to refer to something that is extremely rare. It's colourful language, but if you only translate word for word it won't get quite the meaning across as if you translate it into the form used for the same concept in the other language. C'est la vie.
I've heard the saying about hen's teeth, but I don't see how the Italian words, 'mosche' and 'bianche' translate into this saying. Mosche was listed as, Imperial, flies and beauty spot while bianche was listed as white (woman), white line and white paint. Is this the correct translation for this saying and is it a real Italian phrase?
I see that you did not bother to read the other comments before posting as Duolingo asks you to do. This is an idiom. Different places use different things to indicate rarity, so while the literal translation is 'rare as white flies', this is not used in English, so to translate the meaning so that it is understood the equivalent English is used, 'rare as hens teeth'. It may be that in your region a different thing is used to indicate rarity, in which case you might want to report that as a possible variant. No, chances are that you will not get this one right on the first try, idioms are hard like that, but mastering idioms is necessary to master a language.
They are both rare things in the place where the idiom is used. The Italian idiom uses white flies, a common English one uses hen's teeth. You can't translate idioms word for word and expect it to work. English is full of idioms that if you look at the individual words don't make sense. 'Raining cats and dogs' etc. You just need to find the closest matching phrase which expresses the same meaning. Or sometimes, if you're an English speaker you just steal the phrase from the other language (déjà vu).
So is this simply an equivocal idiom? It seems to literally translate as, 'As rare as white flies', nothing like, 'As rare as hens teeth'. I have heard, 'As rare as hens teeth' before, so I'm assuming this is simply an expression of rarity; no native Italian speaker thinks that they are saying anything about hens teeth, right?