This month has me teaching intensive English courses and setting up theater plays for my younger students. Spain’s having its first heatwave of the year, and a student of mine may have puked orange salmorejo right on my shoes. On the upside, I’ve had three of my old college roommates and a few other friends come visit me in Spain over the past couple of months, which has made for memorable weekends and a much-needed change of pace.
This week, I’ll entertain you with funny Spanish sayings that crack me up:
Literal translation: From lost, to the river.
Real meaning: In for a penny, in for a pound; we’ve nothing to lose!
I’ve also heard this expression when there’s been a generous pouring of wine and beer, which makes me think it also means “from drunk to wasted”.
2. Dos tetas tiran más que dos carretas.
I learned this one from one of the very cheeky school directors I used to work with. She asked me if D-Man would be coming to visit me in the States that summer, and I told her it hadn’t crossed my mind since we had just begun dating. She slyly responded with, “Remember…dos tetas tiran más que dos carretas.”
Literal translation: A pair of breasts are more powerful than a pair of oxen.
Meaning: Don’t underestimate the power of a woman’s influence.
This one’s just cute.
Literal translation: Orange half.
Real meaning: Soul mate.
Though this is usually directed at women, D-Man gets this from his family all the time because he’s (mutually) in no rush to have children yet.
Literal translation: Your rice is going to overcook!
Real meaning: Your biological clock is ticking.
5. ¡No me tomes el pelo!
My elementary-school students and I have an inside joke where if a student is absent, the next day, when he/she student shows up to class, we all pretend there’s an exam. The previously absent student briefly freaks out before realizing we’re all grinning mischievously, and will occasionally exclaim: “¡Paréis de tomarme el pelo!”
Literal translation: Quit pulling my hair.
Meaning: Quit pulling my leg.
Literal translation: Put the horns on (someone).
Real meaning: To cheat on someone; to be unfaithful.
I can only assume that this expression comes from Spain’s bull-fighting subculture. Since el torero is the one leading the bull on before making the bull another victim in the sport of bullfighting, perhaps putting a pair of horns on someone means you’re making them the bull and a victim of your infidelity.
Update: Shannon has shed light on the origins of ‘poner los cuernos’: “…in English lit of yore, cuckolds were referred to/depicted as wearing horns (a nod to the mating habits of stags, who lose their mates if they lose to another stag in a fight and thus are left holding only their horns). Of course, that could all be total coincidence…oddly enough, there’s a phrase in Russian that roughly translates to the same thing: “наставить рога” is “one who attaches horns” but really means more “one who has cheated on someone”.
7. ¡Qué fuerte!
Adding a bit of street Spanish to the mix, ¡qué fuerte! is usually used as an expression of exclamation or surprise. There’s no equivalent in English, and the closest thing it would translate to would be something along the lines of, ‘Holy crap!’ or ‘No way!’.
Literal translation: How strong!
Literal translation: Not even if I were drunk (on wine).
Meaning: Over my dead body. Not in a million years.
9. ¡Qué mala leche!
Literal translation: What rotten milk!
Real meaning: To be in a horrible mood, to have a bad temper (and bad intentions), or to have bad luck.
10. !No me toques los cojones!
Once upon a time, I found myself locked in a 4-hour car drive to Vegas with D-Man and our friend Jeremy (we were meeting more friends in Vegas). D-Man and Jeremy were sitting up front, having an English-Spanish intercambio. Jeremy wanted to know how to pick up girls and fend for himself on his next trip to Spain, and this was one of the manly phrases D-Man thought important.
Literal translation: “Don’t touch my balls.”
Meaning: Don’t mess with me.
What funny expressions do you know in other languages? :)