Translation and Language Industry Observations

What is a saying? This is the dictionary definition:

a short, pithy expression that generally contains advice or wisdom.

If a saying becomes famous it is for a reason. A few catchy words that pack a powerful message, one of popular wisdom. Sayings usually teach us a lesson or moral. Each language has its own sayings, but some sayings are borrowed from other languages and cultures. Castilian Spanish is a language loaded with symbolisms and expressions that serve to express almost any feeling. Here are some of the more famous Spanish sayings.

de tal palo, tal astilla

This saying is literally translated as from such a stick, such a splinter. In English, the equivalents are a chip off the old block or like father like son. This saying exists in many languages and is used to describe two family members who behave in a similar manner.

dinero llama dinero

The equivalent to the English language saying The rich get richer. Historically, this saying may not be true. As anyone who follows the stock market knows, new millionaires are born each day.

al mal tiempo, buena cara

This saying translates into bad weather, good face. Meaning that we should try to maintain a positive attitude even (and especially) when things look bad.

a llorar al valle, majo

This means cry to the valley, sweetie. If you have friends that you can share your inner feelings with, then you are a lucky person. But sometimes, the people who you confide in will tell you a llorar al valle, majo, which means tell someone who cares. The US saying cry me a river may have been borrowed from this Spanish saying.

el hรกbito no hace al monje

This translates to the habit does not make the monk. Which means that the way we dress does not define us. It also is used in the opposite direction, like the popular English saying that looks are deceiving.

Dios aprieta, pero no ahoga

This means: God puts pressure on you, but he won’t strangle you. Which also means that when God shuts the door he also opens up a window. So don’t get discouraged in the face of adversity. In English, the equivalent is there is a light at the end of every tunnel.

a quien madruga Dios le ayuda

This means God helps those who get up early. In the USA they say that the early bird gets the worm. Which means that being hard working and industrious will give you an advantage in reaching your goals.

quien mucho abarca, poco aprieta

Literally: the one who grasps too much, grasps too little. Which means that if you try to get too many things done at the same time, you won’t get anything accomplished. Or in other words, stay focused. This saying has origins in the Talmud and was probably borrowed from aย Hebrew saying which is about 2,000 years old.

crรญa fama y ponte a dormir

Literally: create fame and then go to sleep. The meaning of this saying is that once you have established a reputation, it will be difficult to change it. And to get a good reputation, one must work hard to keep it.

For example if a person gets to be known as a liar, then he will find it hard to be trusted even if he tells the truth. Like the boy that cried wolf. The saying can also be spun in a positive way, meaning that a good reputation precedes you.

Dรณnde va Vicente? Donde va la gente

This saying means literally: Where is Vicente going? Where people go. This saying serves to point out those who are influenced by third parties and follow the herd mentality.

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