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Spanish phrases and words #4

From Chris Royston, weekly collaborator here at Into Spanish Translation Blog:

Some insect related idioms and words: "Ser una hormiga", "To be an ant" connotes industriousness or thriftiness. A "pulga" is a flea. It is also the root of the Spanish word for thumb, "pulgar" which has an unsavory origin. I have it on good authority (my Spanish Spanish teacher) that it derives from the medieval custom of killing fleas with one's thumbnail. The Spanish word for inch derives from the measure of a thumb, a "pulgada". In English we also use body parts for measurements, most notably the foot. An arcane measure, but still used with horses, is the hand. Another Spanish idiom allows the substitution of a flea for a fly, as in "Tener la mosca (pulga) detras de la oreja" which literally translates to "To have the fly behind the ear". The colloquial meaning is "To be suspicious or uneasy".

Thanks Chris! Another very familiar Spanish saying is “Estar mosqueado”, literally “To be flied” (referring to flies, not the verb “to fly”). It means “To be annoyed/suspicious”, depending on the context.

Here are some other Spanish expressions with insects:

- “Ser un moscón”, “To be a big fly”, is “To be a pest”, in the sense of somebody who won’t leave you alone for a minute.
- “No se oye ni una mosca”, literally “Not even a fly can be heard”, would have an English equivalent in “You could have heard a pin drop”.
- “¿Qué mosca te ha picado?”, literally “What fly bit you?”, means “What’s wrong with you?”
- “Por si las moscas”, literally “In case the flies...”, is “Just in case”.
- “Estar zumbado”, literally “To be buzzed”, means “To be crazy”.

Want more? Don't hesitate to visit Colloquial Spanish blog!



Spanish phrases and words #3

From Chris Royston, weekly collaborator here at Into Spanish Translation Blog:

Let's look at how beans are treated in English and Spanish. In English we employ the phrase "To spill the beans". Its colloquial meaning is pretty close to "To let the cat out of the bag". The equivalent in Spanish is "Descubrir el pastel" which translates to "To uncover the cake". In Spanish people don't spill beans, but they do throw them, as in "Echar las habas a ...." which means "To cast a spell on ..."

Thanks for this contribution Chris! You are right, “habas” is a kind of beans in Spanish, namely “broad beans”. There’s another idiom with this particular sort of beans: “Esas son habas contadas” — literally, “Those are counted beans” — meaning “There are no 2 ways about it”. Here are some other colloquial Spanish phrases including beans that I can think of:

— “Ganarse los garbanzos / las habichuelas / las lentejas” — literally, “To earn one’s garbanzo beans/beans/lentils” — would have an English equivalent in “To earn one’s daily bread”, which actually has a literal equivalent in Spanish in turn: “Ganarse el pan”.

— “Ser el garbanzo negro de la familia” — literally, “To be the black garbanzo bean of the family” — would be equivalent to “To be the black sheep of the family”, which also exists in Spanish as “Ser la oveja negra de la famillia”.

Want more? Don't hesitate to visit Colloquial Spanish blog!



Spanish phrases and words #2

From Chris Royston, weekly collaborator here at Into Spanish Translation Blog:

Here are some nationality/ethnicity idioms, one of my favorite categories:

— In English we identify a heavy drinker as someone who "drinks like a fish". In Spanish that same person would "drink like a sponge", "beber como una esponja". There are two nationality based idioms also: "Beber como un cosaco" and "Beber como un tudesco". The first one is "To drink like a Cossack". The second one is "To drink like a German", "tudesco" being an alternative, less common way of saying "German" in Spanish.

— "Hacerse el sueco" literally translates as "To act like a Swede" but colloquially translates as "To act dumb", often used to signify that someone is pretending not to know what's going on. "Más celoso que un turco" translates as "More jealous than a Turk" and the idiomatic meaning is not hard to guess. It means to be consumed with jealousy.

Thanks for these contributions Chris! I would add that "Hacerse el sueco" is often used to complain that somebody pretends not to be hearing or understanding what you say because what you're saying is not very convenient for him or her...

Some other idioms I know that would be included in this category:

— "Despedirse a la francesa" is "To take the French leave". Seems to be a widely accepted stereotype since it's the same in both languages...

— "Guay del Paraguay" means "way cool" and the rhyme between those words is playful and humorous.

— For some reason, there are many idioms involving the Chinese. The less favorable one is "Engañar a alguien como a un chino", which would be translated literally as "To deceive somebody like you would deceive a Chinese person" and would be equivalent to "To take somebody for a ride". But other idioms portray Chinese people as hard workers: "Trabajar como un chino" —"To work like a Chinese"— can be translated as "To work oneself to death". "Sudar tinta china" —"To sweat Chinese/India ink"— can be translated as "To sweat blood". Finally, "Me suena a chino" —"It sounds like Chinese to me"— can be translated as "It's all Greek to me".

— "Hacer el indio" —"to do the Indian"— would translate as "To act/play the fool".

Want more? Don't hesitate to visit Colloquial Spanish blog!



Spanish phrases and words #1

From Chris Royston, weekly collaborator here at Into Spanish Translation Blog:

This week's entry deals with money/coins/currency. A Spanish idiom in this category is "Pagar a uno con la misma moneda", which translates literally as "To pay someone with the same coin". I have heard in English "To pay someone back in his own coin/in kind", but at least to an American ear this sounds antiquated. A more current equivalent is "To give someone a taste of his own medicine". Yet another version is "To give tit for tat".

A skinflint or tightwad in Spain would be described as a "pesetero" deriving from the prior currency, the peseta. I don't think we'll see anything similar with the euro since adding the same suffix would result in "eurero", and this doesn't quite sound right in Spanish.

Thanks for contributing this Chris! I would also add the following:

- "Le sale el dinero por las orejas" means literally "He has money coming out of his ears". Some English equivalents would be "He's made of money" or "He has money to burn".
- "Es moneda corriente" (literally translated, "It's usual/established currency") can be translated as "It's an everyday occurrence".
- "Dinero contante y sonante" (literally, "Counting and sounding money") can be translated as "Hard cash".

Want more? Don't hesitate to visit Colloquial Spanish blog!



New weekly English-Spanish phrases section

Christopher Royston over at Colloquial Spanish blog was kind enough to accept my proposal to contribute Spanish idioms and their English translations on a weekly basis to this blog. So you and I will be enjoying his findings from now on!

Please keep in mind that he will mainly be discussing idioms in Spanish from Spain and their equivalents in English from the US, and some of these idioms will not apply or be slightly different in other English and Spanish-speaking countries. In any case, I am sure that we will all enjoy this new section, which will summarize and complement what is being posted on Colloquial Spanish blog.

Chris is from the US and his parents are also Americans. He went to kindergarten in the Balearic Islands, Spain, then went back to the US and returned to Spain 10 years later, living in Madrid for 3 years. Back to the States, he raised a family with two bilingual children —speaking English and Spanish of course. He's indeed a Hispanophile and his goal is to gather a great collection of Spanish idioms and their equivalents in US English. He's been gathering these for years, and with the help of his blog readers he intends to fine-tune and expand them as much as possible, and eventually write a book with his findings and the cultural differences that can be inferred from them.

Lots of luck with this great project, and welcome to this blog Chris!



Excellent resource for Spanish translators

Talking about translation pitfalls, I recently came across a blog from an old classmate in translation studies at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Javier Perez's La duda ofende is an awesome blog dealing with frequent translation errors, unnecessary borrowings or calques from other languages, spelling issues and many other important aspects of Spanish translation, and it's written in Spanish. If you are a professional Spanish translator, you should definitely and avidly read La duda ofende's frequent posts, which will help you fine-tune and polish your Spanish translation and writing skills. I can't recommend it enough!


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