Funny Spanish expressions around the world – Part I

Every global language is prolific in idioms. Spanish is no different, so here are a few some of our favorite Spanish expressions coming from all corners of the Spanish-speaking world.

  • Spain: No me importa un pepino/ un rábano/ un pimiento.

Translation: I don’t give a cucumber/ a radish/ a pepper. We have no idea why we have so little regard for cucumbers, radishes and peppers. But when we think something is irrelevant or doesn’t matter, this is the expression we use. You can choose the vegetable!

  • Spain: Matar el gusanillo.

Translation: kill the worm. To “kill the worm” means eating between meals. The origin of this expression is quite curious: way back when, people were convinced that a worm inside our bodies ate the food in our stomach, which is why most of us wake up hungry. Thus, to kill that worm would eliminate hunger. In Portuguese, which shares a similar origin, the same expression means “having breakfast”.

  • Spain: Monta un cristo.

Translation: pull a Christ. This expression is widely used in Spain, but people from Latin American countries never use it. It literally means “pull a Christ”, but the meaning is make a scene, e.g. él monta un cristo por 10€ means “made a scene for 10€”.

  • Cuba: Boca cerrada no entran moscas

Translation: with a closed mouth, flies don’t come in. Well, if you keep your mouth closed… you keep your mouth shut. It’s easy to understand that the meaning of this expression is “keep your mouth shut” or “keep a secret”.

  • Cuba: Eso dura lo que dura un merengue en la puerta de una escuela.

Translation: it will last as long as a meringue en la puerta de una escuela. One of our favourite Cuban expressions is “eso dura lo que dura un merengue en la puerta de una escuela”, which means that something won’t last very long. In case you are wondering what a merengue is, it’s a sweet pastry made of egg whites and sugar.

  • Mexico: Se hace bolas.

Translation: turns himself into balls. In Mexico, a person who is confused “se hace bolas”. The expression is also used in Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. For example, estaba estudiando matemática y me hice bolas means “I was studying Math and I got confused.”

  • Mexico: Le mide el agua a los camotes.

Translation: measures water for the sweet potatoes This is a funny one, isn’t it? “To measure the water for the sweet potatoes” means to plan ahead and plan carefully. The expression is only used in Mexico and Camote comes from the indigenous word, camohtlí.

  • Venezuela: Comerse un cable.

Translation: eating a cable. In Venezuela, people are “comiéndose un cable”, which means that they are broke or short on cash. The expression is also used in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panamá. Sometimes, it can also mean that the person lives in poverty and is going through hunger, e.g. él perdió su trabajo, está comiéndose un cable (he lost his work and is broke).

  • Colombia: Son como uña y mugre.

Translation: they are like fingernails and dirt. The meaning is pretty obvious, right? It means that two people are as close as “fingernails and dirt”. The English translation would be “thick as thieves” or “like two peas in a pod”. It’s also used in Chile, whilst in Spain we say “como uña y carne” (literally, like nails and flesh).

  • Uruguay: Pedirle peras al olmo.

Translation: asking the elm for fears Don’t “ask the elm for pears” -  it cannot give it to you. Uruguayans use this funny expression to say “stop asking for something impossible”.

Did you know these expressions? Did you ever hear them? Let us know which expressions you’ve heard and not understood in the past!