When you think about them, expressions and idioms in any language are often funny and sometimes bizarre, but in your own language, you’ll be used to them and probably not give them much thought. In foreign languages, however, it can be great fun to know what day to day expressions mean and it is also a great way to remember them. Literally translating sentences often produces hilarious (if sometimes slightly confusing) results, and the Spanish language can be a very colourful one.
Here are some examples of some funny Spanish expressions for you to drop into conversations to impress the natives with how savvy you are or at least probably make them smile!
Ponte las pilas
Red bull gives you wings, or so the ad goes. Others get their energy from lots of coffee or a morning workout. In many countries, a whole generation watched the Duracell Bunny doing it by having (allegedly) the best, most long-lasting batteries out there. Probably, but not certainly, etymologically unrelated to this is the expression that tells you to “put your batteries in” meaning you should pull your socks up and get crackin’! Maybe in a few years there will be some renewable energy option…
Por si las moscas
What can be more random than the flight path of a fly? Well, for those of you that are as well prepared as a boy scout with their Swiss army knife and all the badges you can think of, this is an expression you can use to say “just in case”.
“Why have you got that (insert possibly bizarre and unexpected piece of gear and/or contingency plan)?”
“¡Por si las moscas!”
Think chillaxing, hammocks, the beach and some soft reggae music in the background. Maybe sipping a caipirinha, or whatever rocks your boat. Imagine it. How do you feel? Not bad, eh? Buena onda is an expression that is used in Latin America to convey this warm feeling that you can have or this cool, warm, hippiesque vibe that some people give off. Head down to the beach and catch some waves! Or just relax by a pool. Good vibes, brah…
Ahogarse en un vaso de agua
Whereas English speaking people can sometimes make mountains out of molehills, Spanish speakers are more dramatic. When they make a big deal and work up a fuss about a problem that most people would find a bit ridiculous, they get treated accordingly! The funny Spanish expression in this case illustrates this very well - ahogarse en un vaso de agua - to drown in a glass of water! Even worse than drowning in the bathtub - on a cruise.
Tomar el pelo
You might do it in a playful way, or you might do it in a more serious way. If you “take someone’s hair”, you might pull their leg a bit, as it were, or you might be taking them for a ride. What’s certain is that you are deceiving them in some way or at least making fun of them, not shaving their head! Or you might go to the hairdresser’s and get charged a lot of money for a not-so-flattering haircut!
Ser un hueso duro de roer
Picture this nightmare scenario. You are a dog, and you’ve got a fairly delicious bit of bone in front of you. Ok, a steak would be better but a bone isn’t bad! But there’s something a bit strange about this bone that makes it difficult for you to gnaw on! Maybe it’s too big, maybe it’s too hard. In any case, you ain’t gettin’ any! This expression is kind of similar to being a “tough cookie” in English but it can used to refer to anything that is tough. Could be a person, could be a subject at school, could be a problem that you are trying to tackle.
Tener mala leche
This is a very popular Spanish expression that can actually mean a variety of things depending on when and where it is used. It can be used to talk about someone that is bad tempered, or someone that is unlucky (which might lead to them being bad tempered!). It can also mean to be mean! If you ever see or hear this being used, pay close attention to the context to get an accurate impression of what is being talked about and whether it is a temporary or permanent state of affairs. One thing should be clear though: having bad milk can’t be a good thing!
A otro perro con ese hueso
Another dog-themed expression for the animal lovers out there, this one shows a huge amount of disdain for someone when you simply don’t believe what they are saying. The expression literally translates to “give that bone to another dog” and reeks of contempt. Imagine if a dog could talk and said such a thing to you. How would that make you feel?
Estar como una cabra
Spanish speaking people seem to think that goats are barmy for some reason. They’ll eat almost anything and prance around, sometimes on sheer cliff faces… maybe they’ve got a point!
“To be like a goat” is equivalent to the English mad as a hatter, which could lead to the question as to why hatters are meant to be mad…But that would be another story.
Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente
With the permission of French, and possibly Italian, Spanish is arguably the language of love and passion. It’s no surprise then, that there are many funny Spanish expressions that have to do with love and various sorts of heartache. Ojos que no ven corazón que no siente is an appeal to the healing powers of time and distance when a relationship has gone sour or when it is not to be. It is also an ode to turning a blind eye to something for the sake of love and a way of saying that in some cases it is simply better to not know certain things.
As a bonus, its more optimistic counterpart el roce hace el cariño, loosely translates as “rubbing brings fondness” which is kind of like saying that close contact breeds affection.
We quite enjoy having a bit of a giggle playing with words here at Chatterbug HQ, and we collect them on our Instagram page so that you can enjoy them as well!
Whereas funny German words and expressions are often quite (somehow) logical in the way that they are built, Spanish ones can be a little more random, at least at first glance, but no less fun. Go on, give them a try!