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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”.

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