Henry and Marta – Accents

Henry:   Hello Marta, is it really you? It’s been so long!

Marta:   Oh, don’t overdo it Henry, it’s been a month. And you know that, as much as I hate clichés, time flies.

Henry:   I missed you (blushes into a tomato red hue).

Marta:  (ignores the blushing) I really needed some time off and I figured I could use those mini-vacations spread throughout March; it’s nice to see you on a day off.

Henry:   I’ve had some trouble keeping up with the holidays lately.

Marta:    You are not alone, today is just a sandwich day.

Henry:   You look different. I think it’s your hair…

Marta:    Yes, I’ve had my hair curled.

Henry:   How would you say that in Spanish?

Marta:   Me hice los rulos.

Henry:   Mey izzei lous rulous?

Marta:   Very good, Henry. You need to work on your accent, though.

Henry:   I try, I really do but I’m afraid I’ve never had a very good ear. Certainly, not like you.

Marta:   Having a good ear is definitely a gift, I thank my lucky stars every day. They say a musical ear helps but it is more than that. I think it is some weird empathy that allows you to connect with the way people talk and then mimick it.

Henry:   Yes, some actors and actresses have that skill. Meryl Streep has it. Some actors definitely lack that ability. I remember I once saw Richard Gere playing a British doctor and, poor fellow, as much as he strived his British accent could only make you laugh.

Marta:   Yes, another actress who is very good with accents is Renée Zellweger. And so far, the only foreign actor who can do a decent porteñan accent in my opinion is Gael García Bernal.

Henry:   The Mexican actor? But their Spanish is quite different, isn’t it?

Marta:   Yes, very different, that’s why I thought he deserves even more credit. But today I wanted to share with you a rare jewel I found, Henry. She is a twenty five year old actress and she can do 21 English accents to perfection.

Henry:   That’s impossible!

Marta:  Listen to this and tell me if she is not amazing, I can’t even tell where she’s from! Her name is Amy Walker and on this video she does 21 accents.


Henry and Marta – Body Parts (eyes, lips and arms)

Marta:    Hello Henry, you are looking a little pale today. Could it have been the milanesas that did not sit well with you?

Henry:   No, actually I am upset because I was looking up idioms for our body part meeting and I ran across typical prejudice against South America and I thought you would be ticked off Marta.

Marta:   Try me, Henry. By the way, I liked the idea of our “body part meeting”…

Henry:   Well, it is even upsetting to me, now that I have been here long enough. Look. I was looking for uses for “the arm of the law” and I found this example: “He fled to South America hoping to escape the arm of the law.”  Insulting isn’t it?

Marta:   I’ll be honest with you, Henry. As much as it saddens me, there are too many cases in history that would explain that example. I am not happy about it, of course, but the law in South America doesn’t exactly have the best reputation. I think, in this case, it was made worse by the escaped Nazis and other outlaws, thus your example. In castellano it is not too common but you would also say “el brazo de la ley”, I guess.

Henry:   Perhaps, that could be it. We also have an example provided by Ana,  who commented on a previous post. She mentioned an expression in Spanish, excuse my pronunciation “genio y figura hasta la sepultara”. She suggested it would be equivalent to “stiff upper lip”.

Marta:   I did look it up after Ana’s comment. “Genio y figura hasta la sepultura” means you have traits that last a lifetime and that you cannot change. It is related to “stiff upper lip” but not exactly an equivalent. Here is what I found for “stiff upper lip”: It is typical of the British. Perhaps British/Indian in origin and is descriptive of a lack of emotion, or at least visible emotion. Apparrently it comes from the novellist PG Wodehouse in 1924, or at least it was popularized by him.

Henry:   So what would be the best translation for it?

Marta:   I had a boyfriend who played rugby and he always said “hay que apretar los dientes y seguir adelante”. But other possibilities include “hacer de tripas corazón” or simply “no inmutarse” o “guardar la compostura”.

Henry:   That was quite detailed, thank you, Marta, I hope Ana is pleased with our little query.  Let´s pick another body part.

Marta:   No, let’s stick to arms today, Henry.  I have “It cost an arm and a leg”. In castellano we would say “me salió un ojo y la mitad del otro”. Apparently we value the second eye more than a leg.

Henry:    Alright let’s finish the arms then. I have “give your right arm”, “up in arms” and “at arm’s length”.

Marta:   The first one is the same, “dar el brazo derecho” as in “daría mi brazo derecho para tener las piernas que tiene ésa que está parada ahí”.

Henry:   Where? Who? Which way are you looking?

Marta:   Now, now, let’s focus here, Henry. “Up in arms” makes me think of  “de armas llevar” but you are “up in arms about something” such as “she was up in arms about the new office policy” when you are really angry. I wonder if it comes from waving your arms around. But if it is someone who gets angry easily, is straightforward and willing to take action you would say she is “de armas llevar”.

Henry:   So somehow we started talking about arms and ended with arms as in weapons?

Marta:   Yes, funny it seems they are related. Weapons, if you think about it, are an extension of the arm. So arms up when angry and arms in hand when angry. The last one is “at arm’s length” and, I´ll tell you in a blink of an eye, that would be “guardar distancia”. I hope I never have to do that to you, Henry.

Henry:   Do what? All this talk about body parts…

Marta: I hope I never have to keep you at arm’s length.

Henry and Marta – “El que no llora no mama”

Henry:   So good to see you again, Marta. I have been looking forward to our meeting. I was going over my notes about dogs and then I realized I had written down many expressions we did not have time to discuss when we last saw each other.

Marta:   I’m in no particular hurry, Henry, so just fire away.

Henry:   I am very fond of the expression “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”.

Marta:   I can see why you would like that saying, you seem to be a very friendly chap. .. What’s so funny?

Henry:   I think it is amusing that you used the word “chap”.

Marta:   I know, but if had said you are a funny “guy”, I feel I would be insulting your European flair. Back to the back scratching. I would say the best translation for that is “hoy por vos, mañana por mí”. And I could go into “Ay, Esmeralda, ráscame la espalda”…

Henry:   What on earth is that?

Marta:   Oh, I don’t know, just a song my mother used to sing… I’m intrigued by your next expression.

Henry:   Yes, not one of my favourites, it seems quite uncouth. How would you translate “to bring home the bacon”?

Marta:   Ah, close in context to “to make ends meet”. I would say “to bring home the bacon” is “parar la olla” but I think it is a little old fashioned. Perhaps people would say “hay que pagar las cuentas”. And “to make ends meet” is “llegar a fin de mes”.

Henry:   Oh yes, sounds very familiar, I have often heard that here in Buenos Aires.

Marta:   Of course you have. And now for one of our most typical expressions: “el que no llora no mama”.

Henry:   Would that be something about a baby crying because he has no mother?

Marta:  No, Henry. The verb is “mama” with an accent on the first syllable, not “mamá” as in mother. And this is one of our national sports in Argentina. It means if you don’t cry/scream you will not get what you want.

Henry:   Splendid expression, quite frankly, and we do have an equivalent in English: “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.

Marta:  Dear Henry, we do more than squeak in these quarters of the world but I agree it is probably the best equivalent.

Henry:   Speaking of “bringing home the bacon”, I’m getting hungry.

Marta: That’s easy to solve. Let me call our waiter.  ¡Mozo! ¡Milanesas para todos!

Henry & Marta – A dog day

Marta:   Hello again, Henry. Why are you so red in the face? Have you been drinking?

Henry:  Marta, please,  it’s 10:00 am! I took your advice and I sat out in the park for a while this morning while I waited for you. As you can see my skin is very fair.

Marta:  Ay, Henry. ¿A quién se le ocurre? You should know better. You should have put on some sunscreen.

Henry: But, Marta, why would I have sunscreen if I am never out in the sun?

Marta: ….

Henry: I do like the summer in Buenos Aires. So many people on vacation, it’s so much easier to get around.

Marta:   Lord, I wish I were on vacation, I’ve been working like a dog. What have you got for me today?

Henry: Very well then, today, dogs it is. First phrase is “his bark is worse than his bite”.

Marta: “Perro que ladra no muerde”.

Henry: Very easy. The next one is “let sleeping dogs lie”.

Marta: Dejá dormir al ro-pe.

Henry: Excuse me, I didn’t catch that.

Marta:  No, seriously, let’s see: “no eches leña al fuego”.

Henry: Check!  You’ll like the last one: “dog does not eat dog”

Marta: Ah, I think it is used more in the expression “dog eat dog”, such as in “this is a dog eat dog world”.

Henry: Yes, but how would you translate that?

Marta:  Qué mundo de mierda. La ley de la selva. People are out to get each other, Henry.  They are at each other’s throats. It’s so sad. Let’s have some orange drink to beat the heat and let’s get you away from the sun.

Henry & Marta – if it ain´t broken…

Harry:   You are looking splendid today! What’s so different about you?

Marta:   Hard question to answer, Harry, I am a month older since we last met, I guess. But maybe it´s the tan. I have been getting some sun.

Harry:   Ah, I see, that could be it!  But should you be out in the sun? Isn’t it dangerous these days?

Marta:   Honestly, I am more afraid of getting hit by a car. Don’t tell me you believe all that stuff about staying out of the sun.  Believe me, a couple of years from now, doctors are going to be advising people to lie in the sun for all the good vitamin D. Moving on now, haven’t got all day. What’s the phrase of the day?

Harry: This is a tough one, you are going to like it,  it is really more of an American expression: “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it”.

Marta: I can see your nose getting all wrinkled up when you say “ain’t”.

Harry: I do hate that word.

Marta: You know I have often asked myself what would be the best translation for that. But we don’t say “lo que no está roto no se arregla”. And just the other day I read a perfect equivalent: “equipo que gana no se toca”.

Harry: Why am I not surprised that football, once again, has found a way into your castellano?