Dicen que no se puede cambiar. Pues, ¡cómo no! si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel.
[captions 3-4, Andrés Manuel López Obrador > Publicidad de TV > Part 2]
The setup line here, Dicen que no se puede cambiar, translates to:
"They say that things can't change."
Then we have the simple phrase ¡cómo no!, which is translated as "of course!" Taking it word by word, cómo (with an accent over the first ó) means "how," and no means "no" or "not." But "how not!" is not quite as straightforward as the simple "of course!" in our translation. Context can be most helpful here. So, ask just about any soccer (fútbol) fan if they'll be watching the World Cup finals on Sunday and the reply in Spanish is the same: ¡Cómo no! / ("Of course!")
Next comes, si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel, or "if they take the biggest piece of the cake." Note that the phrase la tajada más grande del pastel can also be phrased el trozo más grande de la tarta.
You see, both pastel and tarta mean "cake." At the same time, both trozo and tajada mean "slice" or "piece." And your choices don't end there: Another way to say "a piece" or "a bit" is un pedazo, but that's not necessarily culinary. It's often used in the sense of "to fall to pieces" (caerse a pedazos). Meanwhile, una porción is commonly "a portion" but it can also mean "a slice" as in, una porción de pizza.
Got all that? Don't worry if you don't find it's "a piece of cake," which, incidentally, is expressed in Spanish as no está chupado or, no es pan comido.
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....
[Captions 24-6 , Andrés Manuel López Obrador > Campaigning]
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.
Vale la pena explicar que... hemos tratado lo más posible de no dañar la ecología.
[Caption 1, Javier Marin > Artesano Venezolano > Part 2]
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/ wonderfully."
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."
Cuando callas otorgas...
When you keep silent, you consent...
[Caption 10, Circo > Un Accidente]
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."
"Shut up!" (singular)
"Shut up!" (plural)
Con ánimo de lucro
With intent to profit.
[Caption 24, Con ánimo de lucro > Short Film > 1]
Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.
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.
...yo no entiendo ni papa.
[Caption 53, Si-Sé > entrevista > Part 1]
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."
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.
Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas, de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.
[Captions 6-9, Emiro > La historia de Emiro]
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," giving us:
"My father was a school teacher, director of the schools, schools belonging to the Shell Oil company, back 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."
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). [Look for Emiro's use of hoy en día in caption 28 of this same video.]
Trivial aside: It was an interview with Oscar-winner
Trivial aside: It was an interview with Oscar-winnerGustavo Santaolalla 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 aforementioned album featuring the song (and our featured word) Zafar. We warned you this was trivia, right?
¡Te vieron la cara!
caption 65, Provócame > Pilot > Part 17
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.
Che boluda... ¿qué te pasa?
[Caption 3, Cuatro Amigas > Pilot > Part 3]
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 13. 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 Che lore, look for an upcoming biopic called Guerilla, 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."
...hoy en día la música en general
caption 41, Javier García > EPK > 2
More generalizations. This time, we're hearing about music "nowadays" from Javier García producer Gustavo Santaolalla -who just 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 last week, 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.)
Cuando las minas te piden tiempo, lo que en realidad quieren decir es que no seas más ganso y que vayas directamente a los bifes.
[Captions 4-5, Verano Eterno > Fiesta Grande > 7]
¿Que quieren decir? Ok, here's a generalization about men: Whenever you hear men make generalizations about women, be very skeptical! In our newest 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 4-5, as quoted above): "When women 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".
¿No te das cuenta que este caballo me quería atacar?
[Caption 9 > Pilot, 16 > Provócame]
An age-old mistake amongst English speakers is to want to use the verb realizar as a means of conveying "to come to know" or "to realize." Of course, most of you know by now that this is a false cognate and that realizar usually means "to achieve," "to bring into fruition," and the like. In fact, the correct way to say "to realize" is darse cuenta. What Ana Laura is asking in caption 9, then, is "Didn't you realize that this horse wanted to attack me?"
¡Me robaron y no me di cuenta!
"I was robbed and I didn't notice!"
se tiró todo el ropero encima...
[Caption 37, Provócame - Pilot - Part 12]
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
...vine pa' 'cá...
caption 11, Interviews > Taimur Talks
...voy pa' allá...
caption 20, Interviews > Taimur Talks
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.
Haceme pata con la amiguita.
[caption 29, Muñeca Brava > Pilot > 6]
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.
Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre
[Caption 17, Provócame > Pilot > 7]
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.
Pero cómo no va a haber...
[caption 20, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > Part 5]
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."
yo me saqué un nueve
[Caption 16, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 3]
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."