On Poetry and Culture Shock

Lost in translation into English

There are words that I cannot translate because they either don’t have an equivalent that means the same in the other language, or because there’s something special about their sound. Most of them are in Spanish:

Chulo: How can you say in English that someone is “arrogant” with a very colloquial word? Neither cheeky or arrogant imply “overconfident”. There is simply no way to say in English “es que tú eres más chula que nadie”.

Merienda: If you have dinner at ten, like everyone does in Spain, you need a snack at six. “Afternoon tea”, as a meal, not as a drink, is the closest. But that’s as if you loved nice big breakfasts, and found a language that calls any type of breakfast “coffee”.

Avíos: Ingredients, or the set of tools for a task. Aviárselas: to make do with a substitute, especially one of inferior quality. To cope. Very colloquial and very local.

Desavío: What happens when you have put water to boil, made the pasta sauce, open the pantry door and see the spaghetti jar is empty. Lacking an essential tool for the task. Also, a convenience store!

Pesado: the word that means “heavy” used for a person who either talks too much or insists too much on one thing; a pest, someone that tires you.

Jartible: a pest, a pester, someone you are sick of. Extremely local.

Moña: An effeminate homosexual, but also a coward, acts of cowardice, anything half-hearted or wishy-washy. It does not imply homophobia on the part of the speaker (I use this one even when I speak in English).

Afú: Not a real word. Meaningless expression, to express annoyance or tiredness. I was very surprised when some Catalan friends found it funny and weird, so I guess it must be local too.

Saborío, esaborío. Sabor means flavour, and therefore this word would mean “bland, flavourless”. It applies to a person who is either unfriendly or boring, charmless.

1 comentario

maria del mar -

Creo que esaborío o saborío es la versión andaluza de la palabra desabrido.