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Lessons for topic Expressions

Buena Lid: Fair Fight

The votes are in and the official count is over. But the presidential election in Mexico may still be less than finished. The more left-leaning of the top two candidates, López Obrador lost by a hair (according to Mexico's election authority), but he's not admitting defeat and demands a painstaking recount. In this video footage, shot before the ballot counting began, the candidate says confidently:

 

Vamos a ganar de manera limpia, pacífica, en buena lid...

We're going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight...

Captions 27-28, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Make a vocabulary note that lid in Spanish means "fight" or "combat." Meanwhile, "en buena lid" is a common expression (in some parts) that means "in a fair fight" or, more figuratively, "fair and square." So the phrase above gives us:
"We are going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight..."

The expression does not necessarily mean "a good fight," in the sense of it being close or fun to watch, but the election in Mexico has turned into just that.

 

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Valer la Pena and Probar: Trying To Be Worthwhile

Vale la pena explicar que en estos trabajos... este, hemos tratado lo más posible de no dañar la ecología.

It's worth explaining that in these jobs... well, we've tried to do everything possible not to damage ecology.

Captions 1-3, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin tells us right away that he and his fellow jewelry makers are not damaging sea creatures when they make their pretty shell necklaces to sell on the beach. In this video clip, Javier's opening sentence begins: Vale la pena explicar que... A literal translation might begin: "It's worth the trouble to explain that..." Or, more simply: "It's worth explaining that..." 

 

Vale la pena recordar la frase "vale la pena"

It's worthwhile remembering the phrase "vale la pena"

 

Later in the same sentence, we translate: "... we have tried to do everything possible not to damage the ecology." The verb tratar can mean "to treat" or "to try [to do something]" / [de hacer algo]. But note that there's another way to say "to try" in Spanish: probar. Here's how to differentiate the two:

 

Probar usually means "to try" in the sense of "to taste" or "to test." To try on clothing in a store, you use the reflexive probarse [probarse la ropa en una tienda]. 

 

Ay, no sé cómo detener esta máquina, voy a probar con el botón azul.

Oh, I don´t know how to stop this machine, I'll to try pressing the blue button.

 

Tratar [de] is usually used more in the sense of "to intend to" or "to attempt to." For example:

 

Tratamos de explicar el sentido de la palabra.

We tried to explain the sense of the word.

 

Es bastante testarudo pero igual voy a tratar de convencerlo.

He is quite stubborn but still I'll try to persuade him.

 

Of course, tratar means "to treat" too:

 

Cada vez que vamos a visitarlos nos tratan como reyes / nos tratan de maravillas.

Every time we go to visit them, they treat us as royalty / they treat us wonderfully.

 

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 And tratar [con] "to deal [with]". For example:

 

No quiero ni tratar con esa clase de gente.

I don't even want to deal with those people.

 

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Quien calla, otorga: And More About Silence

Cuando callas otorgas...

When you keep silent, you consent...

Caption 10, Circo - Un Accidente

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In the refrain to this catchy punk-pop hit, lead singer Fofé uses the common verb callar, which anyone who has ever annoyed their Spanish teacher knows means "to be quiet," "to keep silent" or, more bluntly, "to shut up." The next verb, otorgar, often means "to grant" [as in, permission] or "to award." There's an expression in Spanish: Quien calla otorga, which basically means "silence is consent" (or, "whoever is silent, consents"). So the refrain can be interpretted as "When you keep silent, you consent."

 

Incluso muchas veces me he tenido que... que callar porque...

Many times I even had to... to be quiet because...

porque no he tenido más remedio que reírme un poco.

because I didn't have any option but to laugh a little.

Captions 22-23, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Caption 11, Bloque - Nena

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¿Te podés callar la boca? Mire, patrona, yo le voy a explicar.

Can you shut your mouth? Look, boss, I'm going to explain [it] to you.

Caption 51, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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¡Cállese!
Shut up! (singular)

¡Cállense!
Shut up! (plural)

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Ánimo de lucro: Intent to Profit

Pero yo no me lo creo, así que decido hacer este documental. Con ánimo de lucro

But I don't believe it, so I decide to do this documentary. With Intent to Profit

Captions 26-27, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 1

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Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.

 

Nosotros no somos coherentes si ponemos nuestro dinero primero, buscándole un gran lucro.

We're not being logical if we put our money first, looking for a big profit.

Captions 32-34, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

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...si predomina la lógica del beneficio y del lucro sin límite.

...if the logic of benefit and unlimited profit predominates.

Caption 67, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 7

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Frankly, it's a little surprising to have a documentary ostensibly about the quest to end poverty and hunger with the title Con ánimo de lucro ("With Intent to Profit" / i.e. "For-profit"). After all, to describe non-profit (or, not-for-profit) ventures in the Spanish-speaking world, the phrase "sin ánimo de lucro" (or, "sin fines de lucro") is commonly used... Well, future installments of this documental promise to explain this cryptic title.

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Ni Papa: It Ain't No Thing

 

Porque a mí me encanta la música francés y árabe, y yo no entiendo ni papa...

Because I love French [more correct: "música francesa"] and Arabic music, and I don't understand a word...

Captions 58-59, Si*Sé - EPK

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When Carol C. of Si*Sé says with a shrug, yo no entiendo ni papa, it's easy enough for us to understand by the context that she doesn't understand a word. She could also have said no entiendo nada, which means "I don't understand anything." [Remember: you use the word nada ("nothing") instead of algo ("anything") after no in negative expressions in Spanish.]

But here singer C.C. chooses a common Spanish phrase for emphasis -ni papa. Ni means "not even" or "nor." That much is straightforward. But papa is one of those words with an almost comic array of meanings -from "Pope," as in
más papista que el papa ("more papist than the Pope"), to "potato," as in papas fritas ("french fries"). Well, one of the many meanings of papa comes from the Latin "pappa" and it means "baby food," "mush," or "pulp." And that's the meaning most commonly associated with the phrase ni papa (literally: "not even mush").

No puedo ver ni papa.
I can't see a thing.

Él no sabe ni papa.
He doesn't know a thing.

 

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Related:

Es una papa.
It's a piece of cake. [It's easily done/easily accomplished.]

No te preocupes por el examen, es una papa.
Don´t worry about the exam, it´s a piece of cake.

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En Aquel Entonces: Back Then

Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.

My dad was a school teacher, head of the schools of the Shell oil companies, in those days.

Captions 6-9, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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On the beach in Eastern Venezuela, Pimienta Café proprietor Emiro tells us about his family history. To tell us about life "back then," Emiro uses the phrase en aquel entonces, which might seem to mean "In that then," if taken literally. But this common expression of time is better understood as "in those times" or "in those days." 

 

Note the use of demonstrative adjective aquel here. Remember that in Spanish there are three demonstrative adjectives to say "this" and "that": este, ese AND aquel. The last of this demonstrative trio is sometimes translated as "that...way over there," implying more distance than a simple ese (or, "that"). So you should get a sense that Emiro is talking about what happened "way back when."

In the Columbian television series Los Años Maravillosos we hear the narrator speak of a simpler, more innocent time from his childhood.

 

Esa tarde salí a dar un paseo.

That afternoon I went out to take a walk.

En aquel entonces los niños todavía podían salir solos sin terminar en manos de un atracador.

Back then children could still go out alone without ending up in the hands of a thief.

Captions 1-3, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Faithful readers might remember that we recently discussed a similar construction of time. You see, Hoy en día means "nowadays" even though it may appear to mean something like "today in day" if taken literally (and awkwardly). Back in Venezuela we have an example of Emiro using the phase while talking about his wife.

 

Luego aquí en Adícora conocí a una muchacha de aquí del pueblo, se llama Lizbeth, mi esposa ahora, hoy en día.

Then here in Adícora I met a girl from here in this town, named Lizbeth, my wife now, these days.

Captions 28-30, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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Trivial aside: It was an interview with two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolla that prompted our discussion of hoy en día just a few weeks ago. Well, the seemingly ubiquitous Santaolalla happens to be the producer of La Vela Puerca's album A Contraluz featuring the song (and our featured word) Zafar. We warned you this was trivia, right?

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Ver la cara: Taken for a Fool

¡Te vieron la cara! ¡Dame!

They took you for a fool! Give me that!

Caption 65, Provócame - Piloto

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A literal translation of Te vieron la cara would seem to mean "They saw your face." However, there is an expression in many Latin American countries that goes me/te/se/nos vieron la cara de idiota, which translates literally to something like "they saw my/your/his/her/our face as the face of an idiot" but which is best taken as "They took me/you/him/her for a fool." The ending de idiota is often dropped and merely implied, so when Ana declares ¡Te vieron la cara! she means "They took you for a fool!" (By the way, while this expression is found from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, you are not bound to hear it in Spain.)

Depending on the context of the situation, the phrase can also mean they took you for something else besides a fool. For example, if you are charged a hefty sum for a street taco in downtown Tijuana, you might suspect "They took me for a tourist," Me vieron la cara de turista.

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Che, Boludo: Argentinian 101

Che boluda... ¿qué te pasa? Estás como loca hoy.

Hey silly [potentially insulting, not amongst close friends]... what's up? Today you're like crazy.

Caption 3, Cuatro Amigas - Piloto - Part 3

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Our third installment of Cuatro Amigas – a very Sex and the City-like Argentine drama – opens in the ladies' bathroom, where we get a chihuahua's eye view of Elena and Rita's taste in intimate apparel. They are chatting intimately, addressing each other with che in caption 3 (cited above) and again in caption 14. In Argentina, che means "hey" between friends, or even "yo." Basically, it's a familiar, informal attention getter... che, got that?

If you watched 2004's Motorcycle Diaries, chronicling the cross-continent journeys that raised the consciousness of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, you know how Che got his famous nickname. For the rest of you: The Chileans were simply making fun of young Ernesto's Argentine habit of saying che all the time. (For more lore about the Marxist revolutionary, look for the two-part 2008 biopic called Che, with Benicio del Toro as a very convincing Che.)

Back to the quote cited above, which is translated as, "Hey silly, what's going on with you?" But we put a special note next to our translation of "silly" because that's not the whole story. Boludo or boluda is a slang word in Argentina that roughly means something more like "jerk." Use it with caution in the streets of Buenos Aires because it can be quite an insult, depending on the context. But between girlfriends, it's almost another way to say "hey... you."

 

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Hoy en día: Nowadays

...y que trae algo a la mesa de lo que es hoy en día es la música en general, ... trae algo diferente, algo novedoso, algo fresco.

...and brings something to the table that nowadays, the music generally, ... it brings something different, something new, something fresh.

Captions 43-46, Javier García - EPK - Part 2

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More generalizations. This time, we're hearing about music "nowadays" from Javier García's producer Gustavo Santaolalla -who won an Oscar for best original score for "Brokeback Mountain" (marketed as Secreto en la Montaña in Spanish). Yes, hoy en día is how you say "nowadays" in Spanish, which you will make note of if you ever want to be as fluent in both languages as Santaolalla is. In his Oscar acceptance speech LA-resident Santaolalla dedicated his Oscar to "todos los latinos." He said both "gracias" and "thank you," which played very well in Latin American newspapers. (To save you time, the article linked describes some Latino papers' reactions--from Miami to Mexico, Brazil to Chile.) 

 

En un principio esta fuente cumplió su función de abastecimiento de agua a los ciudadanos de Madrid.

At first this fountain acomplished its function of supplying water to the citizens of Madrid.

Pero hoy en día su función es totalmente decorativa.

But nowadays its function is totally decorative.

Captions 15-18, Marisa en Madrid - Monumentos de Madrid

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In this example of the use of the phrase, Marisa shows us a beautiful, neoclassical fountain in Madrid called Fuente de Cibeles (The Fountain of Cybele). 

 

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Ser Ganso, Ir a los bifes: Don't Be a Fool--Go for It!

Cuando las minas te piden tiempo en realidad lo que quieren decir es que no seas más ganso... y que vayas directamente a los bifes.

When chicks ask you for time what they really mean is that you should stop being a fool... and go straight into action.

Captions 4-6, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande - Part 7

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¿Que quieren decir? Ok, here's a generalization about men: Whenever you hear men make generalizations about women, be very skeptical! In this installment of Verano Eterno, unemployed Juan offers his unsolicited advice about minas (that is, "women" in Argentine slang) to his lovestruck buddy Mani. According to the wisdom of Juan (captions 4-6, as quoted above): "When chicks ask you for [more] time, what they really mean is stop being a fool and go for it."

Of course, Juan is young and speaks casually to his friend, so there's some slang to decipher to get his precise meaning. Ganso, which literally means "goose," is easy enough to understand in context. But it may help to know that hacer el ganso generally means "to play the fool," and so, naturally, ser un ganso, is "to be a fool." But what about the end of the statement? ir a los bifes In a way, it too follows its literal meaning: "To go to the meat" -er, more or less. Checking in with native speakers, the phrase vayas a los bifes more commonly means "go for it".

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Darse Cuenta: The Real "Realize"

While there are many words that are identical in Spanish and English (e.g. original, horror, etc.), other words play different tricks on us. This short lesson is about one of those "false friends," or words that are written the same as or similar to words in another language but have very different meanings. 

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An age-old mistake among English speakers is to use the verb realizar as a means of conveying "to come to know" or "realize." Of course, most of you know by now that this is a false cognate as realizar usually means "to achieve," "bring to fruition," etc.

 

In fact, the correct way to say "to realize" is darse cuenta. Let's take a look at a couple of clips in order to see that verb in action:

 

Eh, darse cuenta que... que hay mucha gente, muchos chavales, que han podido perder una familia en'... a sus padres, se pueden quedar huérfanos.

Um, realizing that... that there many people, many young people, who have managed to lose an [entire] family... their parents; they can end up orphans.

Captions 12-13, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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Y de pronto te das cuenta de que... de que no quieres estar con nadie más.

And suddenly you realize that... that you don't want to be with anyone else.

Captions 29-30, Cortometraje - Flechazos

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And now, let's see how the Spanish verb realizar is used throughout this El Aula Azul video:

 

Entonces voy a coger los datos para realizar la inscripción.

Then I'm going to take down the information to carry out the registration.

Caption 1, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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Y ahí tendrá toda la información para realizar el pago.

And there he'll have all of the information to make the payment.

Caption 31, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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Y toda la información que pueda necesitar para... para realizar su curso.

And all the information that he might need to... to take his course.

Caption 32, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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As you can see, the verb realizar can be used in many different ways, just not in the way in which a native English speaker might initially expect!

 

That's all for today. We hope this lesson helps you to avoid making this common mistake. And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

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Tirarse todo el ropero encima: Overdressed

Se tiró todo el ropero encima....

She threw everything in the closet on her...

Caption 37, Provócame - Piloto

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The scene is a high society wedding. Two women are talking conspiratorially. A third woman walks by, they say "Hi" but then quickly comment and giggle to each other. You know they just said something catty, but what was it? Here's the replay: "¿Está Loca? Se tiró todo el ropero encima.("Is she crazy? She threw on her whole wardrobe.") In all likelihood the victim of this verbal assault was not wearing everything she owned. However, with her estola ("stole"), joyas de oro ("gold jewelry") and vestido sin tirantes ("strapless dress"), the gossips want to say that she is overdressed.

 

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Pa': A Shortcut for "Para"

Y como yo no soy de este país, me vine pa' cá.

And since I'm not from this country, I came here.

Caption 11, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Ya yo voy pa' allá y me voy pa' mi país otra vez.

I'm going there soon and I'm going to my country again.

Caption 23, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Outside a Spanish classroom -say, on the streets or on the radio- it's very common to hear pa' in place of para ("for, towards, to a destination"). Interviewing young Taimur in a middle class neighborhood of Coro, Venezuela, a whole series of pa' pa' pa's are heard to drive home the point. "Vine pa' 'cá" ("Vine para acá") means "I came [to] here." "Voy pa' allá" means "I'll go [to] there." In both cases, pa' indicates the destination.

Looking for other examples? In the intro to Shakira's ubiquitous song La Tortura, "pa' ti" is the fast way to say "for you." In fact, if you search for "pa' 'cá," "pa' allá" or "pa' ti" on the Internet, you'll be inundated with letras (song lyrics) from the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean down to the tip of Chile and even over in Spain.

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Hacer Pata: To cover for someone

Haceme pata con la amiguita.
[caption 29, Muñeca Brava > Pilot > 6]

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Pata can signify "paw" or "leg," but in this case hacer pata is an expression that means "to support someone" or "to cover for someone." So when Facundo Arana says haceme pata con la amiguita, his friend "covers" (diverts) the other girl while he tries to make his move on Natalia Oreiro. Note that the diminutive of amiga is not amigita, but rather amiguita, just as the diminutive of hormigais hormiguita.

Haceme la pata con el jefe, porque hoy no puedo ir a trabajar.
"Cover for me with the boss, because I can't go to work today."

Haceme pata con Juan, ¡él es perfecto para mí!
"Put in a a good word for me with Juan, he is perfect for me!"

 

Note: Because the video discussed is Argentine, these examples contain the "voseo" form of the affirmative imperative conjugation of the verb hacer.

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Estar por: About to

Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre
[Caption 17, Provócame > Pilot > 7]

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When Patricia says to Ignacio, Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre she is saying, "Your daughter is about to get married to a good man." Estar por hacer algo can be interpreted as "to be about to do something." Note that the reflexive pronoun se in Partricia's phrase belongs to casar, not estar; she could have just as well have said Tu hija está por casarse.

Está por llover.
"It's about to rain."

 

Está por llegar.
"He/She's about to arrive."

 

Estábamos por comer.
"We were about to eat."

Provócame is an Argentine program. In some Spanish speaking areas (not Argentina) estar por + infinitive can indicate an inclination to do something, or to be in the mood to do something. Likewise, in some (other) regions, estar para + infinitive is the more common way to indicate that an action will soon take place.

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Va a haber: Related forms of "Hay"

Pero cómo no va a haber...
[caption 20, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > Part 5]

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Most of us catch on quickly that hay means "there is/are" but are less likely to pick up on related forms such as va a haber, which by itself means "there is going to be." But when Amelia suggests to Santiago Ritchie that he can get what he wants si hay dinero suficiente... ("if there is enough money") and he replies Pero cómo no va a haber, the best translation is "Of course there is" (not "Of course there's going to be"). Santiago instinctively uses va a haber instead of hay after cómo no because pero cómo no hay is likely to be misinterpreted as "since there isn't any (money)." Because of the consecutive and adjacent "ah" sounds, non-natives often find va a haber slightly awkward to say and native speakers themselves often barely pronounce the middle a, or don't pronounce it at all.

Here is a similar example:

Novia: ¿Me quieres?
Novio: ¡Cómo no te voy a querer!

"Girlfriend: Do you love me?
Boyfriend: Of course I love you!"

If the boyfriend had followed cómo no with te quiero, his girlfriend might have understood it to mean "since i don't love you."

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Sacarse: To get a grade and other uses

yo me saqué un nueve
[Caption 16, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 3]

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You'll note that sacarse una nota is a common expression meaning "getting a grade" in school. Hence in part 3 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, we hear Gloria's son proclaim yo me saqué un nueve, "I got a nine." A few other interesting uses of sacarse are:

Sacarse un premio.
"To win a prize."

Sacarse un peso de encima.
"To get rid of a burden."

Sacarse la garra.
"To taunt/insult, To "rag on" someone." [Mexico]

Sacarse la careta.
Literally: "To rid yourself of the mask; to stop pretending, to be yourself."

 

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