Five Fantastic Spanish Idioms!

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Idioms, idioms, idioms.

Idioms are every linguist’s best friend and worst enemy. They can make you sound like a native, but slip up slightly and you just sound like a fool. Learn them properly though, and they will make your life abroad just that little bit easier as you sit in a café and eavesdrop on the next table, or chat with your Spanish friends and manage to understand just what they’re talking about when they tell you that you’re taking their hair!

I thought that I would write down just a few of my favourite idioms that I’ve come across so far, in situations where I just nodded my head, chuckled and pretended I knew exactly what was being said! (side note – that works, people think I’m an absolute Spanish machine, so if in doubt, just nod and smile)

‘No me digas eso, me estás tomando el pelo!’

This crops up a lot. A lot. However, that’s not surprising when you find out that your friend is not, in fact, accusing you of taking her hair – rather, pulling her leg (in English idiomatic terms). Apparently what I say surprises people…who knew?!

‘El? Pues, el no tiene pelos en la lengua – eso es seguro!’

I won’t lie to you, I was utterly bewildered when this one cropped up. Literally translated it means ‘he doesn’t have hairs on the tongue’ – yep, now you understand my confusion. As far as idioms go, it is probably one of the most bizarre ones I’ve come across (unless GCSE biology has failed me, tongues do not naturally have hairs…) and is actually used to *drumroll please* describe someone that always speaks their mind! I can think of a few people with hairless tongues if that’s the case…

‘Mi amigo estaba en el hospital, pero ahora está más sano que una pera!’

Ah, that old well known fact – pears are the healthiest of all fruits. But, what exactly does it mean when someone tells you that their friend is healthier than a pear? That’s the question on everyone’s lips right now. The English idiomatic equivalent (equally strange) is that he is ‘fit as a fiddle!‘ (I repeat, strange – who knew fiddles were so fit?! Oh idioms).

‘Siempre, Sancho, lo he oido decir, que el hacer bien a villanos es como echar agua al mar’

There’s a bit of Don Quijote for you, consider the cultural quota for your day fulfilled.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most logical idioms that I have heard. Literally translated it means ‘to throw water at the sea’. It is actually used to describe something that is pointless, and I would agree that throwing water at the sea is most definitely a pointless venture.

‘Te metiste en camisa de once varas!’

Now, this one I have only heard twice, but it is by far one of my favourites! Literal translation? ‘You’ve put on a shirt made out of eleven sticks!’ I could not disguise my confusion when I was part of a conversation where this was said to someone. What could that possibly mean? What kind of situation arises where you have just got to tell someone that they’ve popped on a shirt made of eleven sticks (impractical). Well my friends, this is just a Spanish way of telling someone that they’ve ‘bitten off more than they can chew‘. Incredible.

Idioms will never fail to make me smile and marvel – and I am sure many linguists will agree with me when I say that they are one of the most fantastic and interesting parts of learning a language!

Long live idioms!


Besitos y hasta la proxima!

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