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06/09/07

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!

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