Culture

Procrastination (...we'll find European idioms for it later)

Article published on Feb. 13, 2013
Article published on Feb. 13, 2013
'Procrastination is the thief of time', sigh the Brits, borrowing the expression from 17th century poet Edward Young while browsing facebook and making yet another cup of tea - all to delay the moment of engaging with the task at hand. Fortunately, we’re not the only nation inclined to put things off until tomorrow, giving rise to a range of eclectic idioms for the lackadaisical

German expressions show a certain ambivalence about procrastination, on the one hand appreciating sweet idleness (das süße Nichtstun) while also condemning the disease of postponeritis (Aufschieberitis). Cheeringly though, they say that postponed is not abandoned (Aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben), and vaunt the occasional benefits of finding tranquility through letting the soul hang (die Seele baumeln lassen).

The Greeks describe a procrastinator as swatting flies (βαράω μύγες), referring presumably to the long sunny days when there is nothing else to do. Far less welcome in polite conversation is the expression I am scratching them (Τα ξύνω), which finds its equivalent in the Spanish identification of those who delay action whilst touching their balls (tocarse las pelotas).

The Italians wisely bid us not to leave until tomorrow what we can do today (non rimandare a domani quello che puoi fare oggi), a sentiment echoed in German (was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen), Spanish (no dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy) and Polish (Co masz zrobić dziś, zrób jutro). The latter provides us with a phrase that procrastinators everywhere can adopt: Work is not a hare, it's not going to escape (Praca nie zając, nie ucieknie).

Thanks also to the folks from the writing and translation website, Worlds of Words, for the Greek contribution - if you have further idiom suggestions for 'procrastination', add them in the comment box below!

Image: (cc) bandita/ flickr; in-text courtesy of © Henning Studte