phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

The proverbial buffalo

Posted by john on April 16, 2010 at 18:04

In Reply to: The proverbial buffalo posted by john on April 16, 2010 at 17:58:

: : : : A quick question - I'm translating a contemporary British novel, and ran into this sentence: "He will have to run headlong into it, like the proverbial buffalo into the storm." This seems to refer to some well-known idiom, but I can't think of any that would fit the bill. Any ideas?

: : : You said the author is British, right? And there aren't any buffaloes native to Great Britain. Well, there are in the U.S. (although not in the northeast, where I live), and I've never heard such an expression. I can imagine buffaloes, like musk oxen, facing a storm, especially when protecting their young, but "run headlong" suggests a situation I'm not familiar with.

: : : I do have a suggestion. Just translate what the author says, and don't worry about whether it makes sense or not.
: : : SS

: : SS is of course right when he says there are no Buffalo in the British Isles, but then there are no lions or elephants either, and the Brits have phrases involving those...

: : Having said that, I have never heard the phrase either, so if it is a genuine proverb it is presumably a fairly obscure one.

: : I am led to suspect the original writer was using the word 'proverbial' in a 'loose' (ie 'wrong') sense, rather in the way some people use the word 'literally' when they actually mean nothing of the sort.

: : DFG

An odd behavioural trait of the North American Bison (buffalo) is to stand and face into a storm rather than seeking shelter or turning away. With the thickest part of their coat being at the front and their massive head and shoulders to block the wind, this stance helps to protect their core temperature. I have heard the phrase "like a buffalo in a snow storm" to mean facing a challenge head-on rather than shying away or turning your back. This is the connection although it seems a little garbled. I can see no good coming from actually charging headlong into a prairie blizzard, even if I was a buffalo. That conjures up a sense of being foolhardy or fighting a battle that can't be won (farting against thunder?), instead of being steadfast.