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  5. "Raro come le mosche bianche"

"Raro come le mosche bianche"

Translation:As rare as hens' teeth

December 19, 2013

139 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dtb89

How about "Once in a blue moon"??

As a native English speaker I've never heard the saying "as rare as hen's teeth."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN

"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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mpjordan

As a native (and only) english speaker, 'rare as hen's teeth' is a very common saying I have heard and used.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dtb89

Perhaps it's a regional (or generational) thing. I will ask around today and see what I come up with. One of the fun things about learning a foreign language is improving one's native language at the same time! :-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EdwardCard1

"Hens' teeth" is a British thing, really. I'm British and hear it fairly often. Also: "as rare as rocking-horse sh*t."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DylanSkusek

I'm guessing this is a Southern/East coast thing? I have never heard of the term.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Fibonacci131

Or an English rather than US thing? I'm familiar with the phrase (Aus - we tend more towards British than American English)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GastonDorren

Unlikely. As a Dutch-speaker having learnt mostly British English, it strikes me how American Duolingo's English is. Just saying. ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dlung1

I'm from California and I've always used it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Styles2Italy

Nope. Never heard it. Southern/Mid East Coaster my entire life.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaggieRCasey

I always figured it was a rural thing. I've heard it around farming families (in the midwest US) way more than in urban areas.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CaraMia772

I'm in the rural Midwest and I've never heard this among the many silly things we say!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lupocuore77

I've heard it before; not used often, though. And I'm in Southeast USA


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sedona2007

My family is from Texas. I heard it a lot in East Texas.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hrcoble

Southerner here. Never heard this.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/silkwarrior

I agree - though "once in a blue moon" should also be accepted. This is after all about idioms, which will naturally vary in their idiomatic examples to make the same point.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/celena.s

As a native English speaker (Canada), I have NEVER heard 'rare as hen's teeth'. It must be regional.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BonBonChat

native english speaker from the US - never heard it. weird


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IveliaMorales

where are you from? i have lived in new england my whole life and never have i heard "rare as a hen's teeth" !


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GiulianaDonnelly

Are you British? Perhaps this is not used across the pond, as I've never heard, or read it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BenHuxham

I've often heard rare as hen's teeth and it is sometimes used for events. Never heard the white fly one before.

From Australia so the regional thing could be it. Onwards and upwards!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/awpoppo

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN

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".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kathyCTX

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dtb89

Ah, of course. Thanks for the clarification.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elin.7-1

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hunter6LA

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndrewBags15

Good stuff! I've heard "rarer than hen's teeth" in the Carolinas too.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HelenCrawford01

These are great! Love them. I had a coworker/friend who was from Mississippi, too, who was full of fun idioms like that. Her name, appropriately enough, was "Dixie" :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnnaRoxene

so hens don't have teeth then?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

One of the characteristics of birds such as hens is that they tend to have beaks, not teeth. There are some animals that have beaks/bills that aren't birds, but I don't off the top of my head know any existing birds that have teeth. Hens definitely don't.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TobyBartels

Despite all of the smiling birds showing their teeth in cartoons, there are no birds with teeth (at least not today, but some extinct birds had them).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joemdo

Geese have teeth and so do penguins. I'd assume in our crazy world there are also many other toothed birds.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/akeiba

I just learned the people in Ireland use the hen's teeth idiom to demonstrate rarity. Not really a good judge of North American english idioms but I shouldn't assume this is North American English we're comparing it to


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Cthompson0

Not an American idiom. At least not in the upper midwest.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rafforza

I think the point here is that it's trying to express that it's impossible not just that it's rare. There's a bit of sarcasm in the phrase, which is why once in a blue moon doesn't have the same meaning. Hens don't have teeth, and flies are all black.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MandLe081

Actually there are white fruit flies, so perhaps hens could get a root-Kanal. lol


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN

Yes, and those little white fruit flies are not even rare around here at all, so it ruins that saying. Do they not have them in Italy?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

Must be regional. Because I as a native English speaker have.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel_B

It must be. I'm from Alberta, Canada, and I've never heard it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johnarnold

I lived in CA, TX, CT, AL, NY, NJ, MD and have never heard it. It must be as rare as white flies--which I thought was so self explanatory that it did not need an English saying from a parallel universe.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ProfMoebius

It's an extremely common UK saying, but I know Duolingo is from your side of the pond, so strange it's in here


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stevami

*your side of the pond


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ProfMoebius

In that case we'll agree to disagree


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rsc55

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lindsdav

I'm from NJ and have lived in PA, CA and now NY and have never heard "rare as hens' teeth"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stevami

I from nj too never heard it


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidReeso

American English?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/casagialla

it is a very common saying!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Altair0315

In which country?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/casagialla

UK, though it may be more of a regional thing, these usually are, being from the north we probably have more than most!! as rare as hens teeth, as useful as a chocolate fire guard, as thick as two short planks I could go on forever!!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EmmaLouiseC

We say "chocolate teapot" (west coast Scotland).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RyanBrowni

Yeah, we say 'useful as a chocolate oven' (South East England)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elin.7-1

All those and as useful as an ashtray on a Harley. A favourite of my Mum's (SW England)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gecko_gal

I come from Canada, and I've never heard of the saying "as rare as hen's teeth"! I decided to write "Rare, like a needle in a haystack" (actual saying goes "Like finding a needle in a haystack") which I think conveys the most likely message.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/russodo

I'm from Canada too and I am very familiar with the saying. Often said "it's like pulling hens teeth". ( impossible). I wonder if it's an age thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CallumRoy

Thankfully, it accepts a literal answer, also.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/birkos

Perhaps it is an age thing. Very common (to an OAP) Duo lingo did not allow hen's teeth Insisted on hens or hens' teeth. hmmm interesting!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sgpsgpsgp

Very common in Scotland


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EmmaLouiseC

I've heard of it before but it's used so rarely I typed "as rare as chicken's teeth".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DreJr

I live in the Caribbean and have never heard or encountered this phrase.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/laviniavacaru

i translated it "rare as the white fly" and it was correct :)))


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterC93

ANOTHER CORRECT SOLUTION:

" As rare as hen's teeth "

hahaha !!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

That's the thing with idioms. There are the literal translations (rare as white flies) and then there are the closest matching sayings in English (rare as hen's teeth). While using different words, they express similar meanings.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MrSunshine251

I'm Australian, and "As rare as hen's teeth" is an extremely common saying.

However, the literal translation here, "As rare as white flies", I believe, has never been said here. Ever.

I took a chance and typed in the hen's teeth saying, and was surprised when it was right!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/italikaren

What about "as rare as a four-leaf clover" ? Anyway, i get it, were learning italian not english.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PenelopeRoma

My guess is because four leaf clovers exist, but hen teeth do not!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN

Yes , but white flies exist also.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Farishaismail22

Yes you are right !!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MrCucciolo

Literally means: as rare as white flies, that means is something strange or odd, in Spain is very used "raro como un perro verde" which means as rare as a green dog


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GregHullender

I have usually heard "scarce as hens' teeth" not "rare." E.g. "I don't know where you got that, but you hold onto it; those things are scarce as hens' teeth!"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ClaudeMedearis

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/darkpeak

'Rare as hens' s teeth' is common in NW england. Were there any other English translations?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elen-ka

what does this idiom mean?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/karlsefni

when you're talking about a very, very rare event/thing, you say that it is "raro come una mosca bianca" (literally: as rare as a white fly). Here you have "mosche bianche" (plural), but I think that the singular form is more used.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/karlsefni

prego :) I forgot to mention that it's used for people as well, and that you can frequently find it as "è una mosca bianca" ("raro come" is omitted).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CliftonBie

I think for idioms like this, the literal translation is more useful. When translated literally, the meaning is pretty clear: very rare. I find that translating to a similar English idiom is confusing in terms of what the actual words mean.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/martinislider

Okay " rare as hen's teeth" that sounds like a southern saying but I'm from the South and never heard it. And I know and love souther idioms. This is just "crazy as a sprayed cockroach!"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Blomeley

Funny, white fly is a common name for the tiny flies that that hang around my garden in summer. There are literally thousands of them.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LadyCarrington53

As rare as hens' teeth - well known in Nottingham (Midlands) - where natives call each other "Duck".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GillianMaud

"Rare as hens' teeth" is pretty common in Scotland.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Nicole_Di_Kansas

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0669114790/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1419883351&sr=1-1&pi=V192198896_AA75

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/judy.scholar

A snowball's chance in hell?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amy.yam.68

How would you use it when talking about a person? Would it mean "rare" as in one-of-a-kind (positive connotation), or "rare" as in odd (negative connotation)?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tobithegreat

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vietata

Indeed, I have heard it lots here in the UK


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/agalatic

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Donna_Diana

I'm a native English speaker and fluent in Spanish. Had an idea of the sense of this idiom, but no clue of its English equivalent. I tried "as rare as white flies" and it was accepted. What a surprise! Don't think I've ever heard "as rare as hen's teeth."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Samsanantha

This is definitivo British English! I've heard it a lot, but then, maybe I had a lot of older genration teaches etc...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lukasv1

It seems to me that this idiom is as rare as hen's teeth ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Leilani708401

This is a very common saying ... but how does 'le mosche bianche' become hens teeth? Should the sentence not use 'galline dente'?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Apogeotou

In Greek we don't have an idiom like this, but a similar one. For example, if someone or sth (let's say a store) has everything, even the most rare things, we say "It even has the bird's milk" (έχει και του πουλιού και το γάλα) :P


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SigurdS

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Apogeotou

Wow this is awesome! I didn't know that this phrase was so old! Also, I recommend that you read Ekklesiazousai (by Aristofanes), you can find the longest Greek word there :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SigurdS

I already got this on my to-read-list - but thanks for the recommendation :) also i'm totally in love with the word νεφελοκοκκυγία (from Ὄρνιθες).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elin.7-1

I have heard a similar saying in English...but bull's milk rather than bird's. He's as much chance of doing that as of getting milk from a bull.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/javierarmando

I have neither heard "as rare as hen's teeth" nor "as rare as white flies".

I am so confused, what would be another close idiom?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/italikaren

"as rare as a four-leaf clover", i.e. very rare


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gecko_gal

That's a good idiom to translate with! Thank you!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/darcara

I have heard that my whole life. I am from alabama


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/patdj

Italian "raro" means only "rare" and not (also) "strange", like in Spanish?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidReeso

In Australia, the phrase "rare as hen's teeth" is as common as sand in the Simpson Desert.

The phrase still means very rare or unusual occurrence. A more ocker expression might be "as rare as rocking horse poo"...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LassHF

I'm russian, and we have idiom "like a white crown". That means someone is realy (almost absolutely) differ from others. Is it a similar meaning? Or does this italian idiom means "something hard to find"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

It means very hard, bordering on impossible to find.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wardealer

So many comments, discussing about animals and insects that don't even exist.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kathrynhandreck

I have owned many hens and not one of them has had any teeth. The point being that some things just don't exist so don't waste time looking for them.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philamarco

I put "As rare as a white fly" and got it correct...? That's weird lol.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ThenSheAteIt

how in the world does this translate to " as rare as a hen's teeth?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jonyjrslm

I grew up in New York, USA and have heard the expression "rare as hen's teeth" often - but maybe that's because my mother grew up on a farm in Wisconsin! It should be understandable by all however - hens (chickens) don't have teeth!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dun0ne

I thought it said rare as flies on a white woman >_<


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PhilipTempleton

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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Robert450192

What bugs me about this is that the translations you get when hovering your mouse over the words is nothing like the answer.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/donna.mcph

As a former New York city dweller I heard "as rare as hen's teeth" while growing up so I get that. My problem is with what does a white flies have to do with hen's teeth? I do not get the connection. Why not just say "hen's teeth"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

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).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/seedney

my answer: what


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ariaflame

Try reading the comments before posting. You might find it has been answered there.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/seedney

im just stating i literally wrote my answer as "what" because this is so hard to remember and there's no hints in the question i was given.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/David144227

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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Eamonn469326

Yeh this is ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ my nonna knew this but she is 70+ years old, so i'm guessing an elderly person wrote this one up


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anaeastman

Los Angeles native here. The saying "Rare as hen's teeth" in California is as rare as rocking horse manure:) (as my South African mentor used to say).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CaterinaRosina

I've heard the expression "scarce as hens' teeth," but it seems that many speakers of English have not. The comparable expression I hear more commonly these days is "like a snowball in hell."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GabriBella4

If you translate it, it ays rare like the white moscito. In Hungarian: Rare like the white row!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/frtgv

A white crow, correctly. This idiom in Hungarian - according to the comments above - is like in Germany and Russia.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Georgia150380

I am from greece and i dont untrestand it please help


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elin.7-1

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