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06/19/07

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”.

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