Another Polish saying "Tłumaczyć jak krowie na miedzy" that means "To explain [something to someone] like a cow in bounds".

This idiom is used to describe a person that is dumb above the average and/or has problems with understanding certain issue and you try to talk to him as plain as possible to explain it to him. Cow is believed to be a very stubborn animal and it is difficult to make it do something you want it to do - that's an etymology of an idiom.

More details

In original Polish version word "bound" stands for a stripe of grass between fields (country land) that marks the real borders of a field so that a farmer would know where his field ends and start his neighbours.

- Wait, what was that bipolar junction transistor doing once again?
- Jesus, you're deaf or what? I've been talking to you like a cow in bounds for last 3 hours.

Little help
Picture that might help in understanding idiom enter image description here

  • 2
    It might be useful to explain what you mean by "in bounds". That phrase in English normally refers to sports, where a ball or player is either "in bounds" (within the lines of the playing field or court) or "out of bounds". Mar 13, 2016 at 9:01
  • No offense intended (my grandmother was Polish) but in American culture the Pole (the "Pollack") has long occupied the place of the cow :)
    – TimR
    Mar 13, 2016 at 14:59

5 Answers 5


I can’t think of any animal-based idioms for this but maybe you could mix it with a well-known English one that is similar in meaning (the mixing part in brackets is a joke, btw!):

It’s as if I’m talking to a [cow stuck behind a] brick wall.

talking to a brick wall
Is a phrase used to sarcastically explain that the person you are talking to ... is not listening or is so dumb that they don't understand
Wow you're so stupid it's like talking to a brick wall

(from ‘Urban Dictionary’)


...I've been spelling it out for you for the last three hours

spell out

To give a detailed and literal statement of something in order to make it perfectly clear and understandable: The committee demanded that he spell out his objectives. She didn't understand the penalties at first, but we spelled them out for her.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs)

Do I have to spell it out?

Do I have to spell it out (for you)? and Do I have to paint/draw (you) a picture?; Do I need to paint/draw you a picture?

Fig. What do I have to do to make this clear enough for you to understand? (Shows impatience.) Mary: I don't think I understand what you're trying to tell me, Fred. Fred: Do I have to spell it out for you? Mary: I guess so. Fred: We're through, Mary. Sally: Would you please go over the part about the square root again? Mary: Do I have to paint you a picture? Pay attention!

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

The Free Dictionary

So I guess since you are too dumb to figure it out, I will have to spell it out for you. Cold Spots

... I've been bending over backwards/going out of my way for the last three hours to [explain it for you/make it clear for you]

bend over backwards and fall all over oneself (to do something) (for someone)

Fig. to work very hard to accomplish something for someone; to go out of one's way (to do something) (for someone). He will bend over backwards to help you. I bent over backwards for you, and you showed no thanks!

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)


I work with computers and often get requests like this "Can you dumb it down for me?" Or "Explain it to me like I'm an idiot." Or "Explain it like I know nothing about it (computers)."

I'm not sure how popular all the phrases are, but I think the "dumb it down" or "dumb it down a bit" is used all over the USA.

I like the other answer that's become popular in the last few years, mentioned above, "explain it like I'm five (years old)".


Explain it like I'm five.

It is a current idiom that means explain a complicated subject in a way a five-year-old child can understand. It does not convey that the audience is dumb, just not expert in the matter.

If you are tired of not being understood, you may also say:

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

  • I’m not sure the second one is really relevant to the question  —  I believe that “those who will not hear” refers to people who are willfully ignoring a communication that they don’t want to hear (like “burying their head in the sand”). Jun 29, 2016 at 21:54

Talking to you about this is like talking to a post. In other words, the individual may just as well be a firmly rooted inanimate object.

Describing the person: they are a stick in the mud An interesting discussion (previous question) on that particular phrase can be found here: Origin of stick in the mud

The "in bounds" part of the polish statement is intriguing. Using Google translate it looks like it roughly equates to between, or confined. Maybe like this? CowOriginal source

  • Moooo ve over!! Mar 13, 2016 at 6:09
  • I love how that cow's facial expression is just like "Huh, this is slightly inconvenient. Must be Tuesday again." Mar 13, 2016 at 9:30
  • I like how the black cow is looking at the photographer.
    – TimR
    Mar 13, 2016 at 14:55
  • Yes this picture might illiustrate sense of the idiom. I specified what "bound" stands for in question
    – Colonder
    Mar 13, 2016 at 19:46

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