I have touched on this subject a couple times in the past and maybe you are getting tired of finding out just how much Spanish you do not know, but I find differences in languages and customs fascinating, and understanding some of the idiosyncrasies of a foreign language can be one of the hardest things to overcome. We certainly have our share in the English language. Just imaging an English language student hearing someone say that you are “putting lipstick on a pig”.

So for the sake of all you future Spanish speakers out there, here is another list of some of the commonly used, seemingly nonsensical phrases. Since the Spanish language varies so much from region to region these may or may not be the exact phrases that are used in a particular area – but they are pretty universal.

Por si las moscas

Literal: For if the flies

Used as: Just in case.

Example: El día está nublado, me voy a llevar el paraguas por si las moscas.

Translation: It’s a cloudy day, I’m taking an umbrella just in case.


Poner las pilas

Literal: Put batteries in

Used: Get ready / Wake up / Be alert

Example: Si quieres que te asciendan te tienes que poner las pilas.

Translation: If you want that promotion you have to put in your batteries.


Poner los cuernos

Literal: To mount/put horns on someone

Used as: To cheat or be unfaithful.

Ex: Terminé con mi ex-novio porque me puso los cuernos.

Translation: I broke up with my ex-boyfriend because he cheated on me.


No tener dos dedos de frente

Literal: Not having two fingers of forehead

Used as: He/She is not smart.

Ex: No pasó el examen porque no tiene dos dedos de frente.

Translation: He failed the test because he’s not smart.


Sacar de quicio

Literal: Take out of the doorjamb or frame.

Used as: Exasperate.

Example: Me saca de quicio cuando mis alumnos no me prestan atención.

Translation: It exasperates me when my students don’t pay attention.


Tomar el pelo

Literal: Grab or drink the hair

Used as: To kid or fool someone. Equivalent to pulling someone’s leg.

Example: Mi hija me estaba tomando el pelo cuando me dijo que se hizo un tatuaje.

Translation: My daughter was pulling my leg when she told me she’d gotten a tattoo.


Echar el muerto

Literal: throw the deceased

Used as: To put the blame or the responsibility on someone else.

Example: Yo no rompí la lámpara, no me eches ese muerto a mi.

Translation: I didn’t break the lamp, don’t put that on me.


Que onda?

Literal: What wave?

Used as: What’s up?

Poner la mano/las manos en el fuego

Literal: Put your hands in the fire

Figurative: Be 100% sure of something or have complete faith in someone.

Example: Pongo las manos en el fuego que él no contó mi secreto.

Translation: I’m 100% sure he didn’t divulge my secret.


Tirar/Echar la casa por la ventana

Literal: Throw the house out the window

Used as: To spare no expense or go all out.

Example: Decidieron tirar la casa por la ventana para la boda de su hija.

Translation: They decided to spare no expense for their daughter’s wedding.

See you again next month.

Saludos, Jim Ringquist