Have you ever stopped to think about how weird the English language is? Well, maybe the language itself isn’t so strange, but how we use it definitely is.
When did “cool” start to mean anything other than the temperature? When did adding “ass” after an adjective become a way of emphasizing that adjective? ie. That’s a big ass house! Seriously? Who the hell came up with that?! And why do New Yorkers say “mad,” Bostonians say “wicked,” and Northern Californians say “hella” when they all mean the same thing? (They all mean “very” in case you were wondering)
Now, these examples are just from different U.S. dialects of English. Add in my English-speaking friends from other countries and the list of weird sayings becomes almost infinitely long.
Funny words or phrases like those can be found in every language. They’re a part of what make languages so fascinating and also so difficult to learn sometimes. Nine years of studying Spanish in school didn’t prepare me for the colloquial language I would hear when I moved to Spain. That stuff I had to learn on the go thanks to context clues and patient friends who would explain things to me.
When translated to English word for word, these sayings are hilariously wrong, but in Spain they make perfect sense. I’ll start with my favorite…
¡Me cago en la leche!
Literal translation: I crap in the milk!
Actual meaning: You know when you hit your toe on the corner of some furniture and it hurts like hell? Or when your GPS keeps recalculating the route so you end up making a million wrong turns? Those are the times you would use this phrase. It’s an all-encompassing way of throwing your hands in the air and screaming daaammiiiit! In other variations of this phrase you can also crap in the sea, on god or on someone’s whore mother. Classy!
And speaking of whore mothers…
(Something is) de puta madre
Literal translation: Something is of a whore mother
Actual meaning: When something is really awesome, people will often say it’s of a whore mother. It’s usually used for events like parties or concerts and also for things. Let me put it this way: If someone says a meal you cooked for them is de puta madre , go ahead and pat yourself on the back because that food was delicious.
¡Es la leche!
Literal translation: It’s the milk!
Actual meaning: When something is really cool, and I’m not talking about the temperature here, in Spain, it’s the milk! For example: Did you see that new TV show last night? Yea! It’s the milk! Another variation of this phrase is, “¡Es la polla!” which means… ehem… It’s the dick. *shrugs shoulders* I don’t claim to understand these things. I’m just passing on the info.
¡Vete a la mierda!
Literal translation: Go to the shit!
Actual meaning: If you think about it for a little bit you could probably guess this one, but I’ll go ahead and just tell you. “Vete a la mierda” is the Spanish way of telling someone to go to hell. A less common but G-rated version of this phrase tells people to go fry an asparagus. It’s an elementary school favorite.
Él/Ella tiene mucha cara.
Literal translation: He/She has a lot of face.
Actual meaning: You know when someone does or says something they know damn well they shouldn’t be doing or saying? Well, that person has a lot of face. This phrase is basically a mixture of saying that someone has a lot of nerve for doing something and they also have no shame. I love this saying and still use it to this day. Luckily my best friend speaks Spanish so she gets me.
Estoy a dos velas.
Literal translation: I am at two candles.
Actual meaning: I’m really broke aka I have no money aka don’t ask me to go out tonight aka go ahead and ask me because I’ll probably be irresponsible and go out anyway because beer is just so damn cheap in Spain.
Se me va la olla/pinza.
Literal translation: My pot/clothespin leaves me.
Actual meaning: Whether it’s your pot or your clothespin that’s leaving you, both versions of this phrase mean the same thing: I’m going crazy (or mad if you prefer British English)!
Es pan comido.
Literal translation: It’s eaten bread.
Actual meaning: When something is really easy, in Spain they say it’s eaten bread. In English it’s like saying something is a piece of cake, which is interesting since this phrase in both languages has to do with food. Hmmm… Well, that is the limit of my linguistic interpretation on that. Deep, I know. You can thank my bachelor’s degree in linguistics for that one.
Él/Ella no tiene pelos en la lengua.
Literal translation: He/She doesn’t have hairs on his/her tongue.
Actual meaning: A person with no hairs on their tongue is someone who tells it like it is. They’re brutally honest, and I guess not having hairs on their tongue makes sure nothing gets in the way of that honesty. As my friend once put it: A person who no tiene pelos en la lengua will tell you you’re ugly straight to your face.
Pegarle una hostia.
Literal translation: To glue/stick/hit someone with the host (aka body of Christ)
Actual meaning: For a phrase coming from a traditionally Catholic country, the meaning of this saying both literally and figuratively is pretty sacrilegious. If you’ve ever been to Catholic Church you’ve probably heard the priest refer to the cracker/bread thing they give during communion as the host or as the body of Christ. Well, the actual meaning of “to glue someone with the body of Christ” is pretty far from anything holy. It means to slap someone really hard and usually across the face.
I could seriously make a never-ending list of all the hilarious words and sayings I learned while in Spain. I think Spanish has even more funny phrases than English does, but these are my favorites. These are the ones I use to this day in the middle of an English conversation and just hope that people understand me. Thank you, universe, for my bilingual friends who don’t even bat an eye at my Spanglish!