Your Weekly Dose of Spanish by Spaniology: Semana 9

Updated: Oct 6

Published in Dungarvan Leader Page 15 on Tuesday 21st of September


Idioms are expressions carrying a figurative meaning and they constitute one of the most picturesque characteristics of every language. They occur in abundance in Spanish, as one would expect, bestowing upon speakers the capacity to garland their speech with luxuriant and creative flair.

We can find idioms with literal equivalents in English such as La curiosidad mató al gato (curiosity killed the cat), No juzgues un libro por su portada (don't judge a book by its cover) or No es oro todo lo que reluce (all that glitters is not gold).

Occasionally, we find expressions very similar to their English counterparts but with slight variations in their form. For instance, Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando (a bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying) is a clear equivalent of "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"; either Spaniards value their ornithological catches much more highly or consider the presence of a fowl in the bush of a certain worth for some reason. And whilst on the arboreal subject, the Spanish equivalent of "To beat about the bush" is Andarse por las ramas (to walk among the branches); in this case English seems to be the most bombastic and frenzied one. The decimal system also played its part in these divergences, and the English axiom "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" finds its Spanish relative in the form Vale más prevenir que curar (preventing is worth more than curing), stripped of all the imperial measures which would render its moral conclusion difficult to grasp. Renowned Latin passion lies behind the transliteration of "Out of sight, out of mind", which in Spanish is Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente (Eyes that don't see, heart that doesn't feel).

In most cases, however, Spanish expressions would completely diverge from their English counterparts or even lack an equivalent altogether. As a culture which prides itself on its gastronomy, we often use foodstuffs to express a variety of situations. And so, if we wish to tell someone off we send them a freir esparragos (to fry asparagus) or wish upon them to be presented with some black pudding (¡Que te den morcilla!). A particularly irate individual would have mala leche (bad milk), and when we are not particularly concerned about something, nos importa un pimiento (don't give a pepper).

To conclude, one for our gaeilgeoir readership: Aunque la mona se vista de seda mona se queda (although a monkey is dressed in silk, she will remain a monkey), our own version of Cuir síoda ar ghabhar ach is gabhar i gcónaí é, with a simple swap of animals. I hope you have been todo oídos (all ears) and enjoyed your weekly titbit of Spanish until the next instalment.

* Here is your weekly dose of Spanish: Aprender español es pan comido [Learning Spanish is a piece of cake (literally "eaten bread")]

Sergio Fernández Redondo

Sergio hails from Asturias in northern Spain and has recently relocated to Dungarvan, where he is a Spanish teacher and PR assistant at Spaniology. Having an eclectic background in engineering, translation and linguistics, he is also a keen aficionado of history and languages.


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