A country’s idiomatic expressions often represent what people place the most importance and value in. With so many expressions that contain food, it’s obvious that wining and dining is a staple in the daily life of a Spaniard. Read on to see what interesting idioms they use in their lexicons.

Dar calabazas a alguien

Ser más bueno que el pan

— To be a good soul (lit. to be better than bread)

Se me cayó la cartera en la calle y una señora me la devolvió. Es más buena que el pan.
My wallet fell on the street and a lady returned it to me. She’s a good soul.

Estar más bueno que el pan

— To be physically attractive (lit. to be better than bread)

He conocido a una persona que está más buena que el pan.
I met a person who is very beautiful

(Be careful when using the two expressions above. Though they are similar, they mean different things. The verb ser is used to express permanence and refers to the person being good. When the verb estar is used with más bueno que el pan, it means that the person is attractive.)

Ser un chorizo

— To be a thief (lit. to be a chorizo, which is a type of Spanish pork sausage)

Los políticos son unos chorizos.
Politicians are thieves.

Pedir peras al olmo

— To expect the impossible (lit. to ask the elm tree for pears)

Juan acaba de cumplir un año. Sus padres querrían que ya hablase, pero sería como pedirle peras al olmo.
Juan just turned one. His parents wanted him to speak already, but that would be like expecting the impossible.

Estar como un flan/hecho un flan

— To be a wreck (lit. to be a caramel custard)/to be nervous or excited, nervous wreck (lit. to be made a flan)

Está hecho un flan porque le da miedo viajar en avión.
He’s a wreck because he’s afraid to travel by plane.

Temblar como un flan, photo via Freepik

Montar un pollo

— To make a scene (lit. to ride a chicken)

El adolescente montó un pollo en la tienda porque sus padres no le compraron un teléfono nuevo.
The teenager made a scene in the store because his parents didn’t buy him a new phone.

Atrapar con las manos en la masa

— To catch red-handed (lit. to catch with hands in the dough)

Ana atrapó a su novio con las manos en la masa. Lo vio besando a otra mujer en la fiesta.
Ana caught her boyfriend red-handed. She saw him kissing another woman at the party.

Dar calabazas a alguien

— To turn someone down, to reject (lit. to give someone pumpkins)

He invitado a Carmen a ir al cine, pero me ha dado calabazas.
I invited Carmen to go to the movies, but she rejected me.

Estar en el ajo

— To be in on something/to be part of something (lit. to be in the garlic)

Se hace que no sabe, pero yo sé que está en el ajo.
She pretends she doesn’t know, but I know she’s in on it.

Ser pan comido

— To be a piece of cake (lit. to be eaten bread)

Soy mecánico desde hace 20 años, arreglar coches es pan comido.
I’ve been a mechanic for 20 years, fixing cars is a piece of cake.

Importar un pimiento

— To not matter one bit (lit. to matter a pepper)

Me importa un pimiento si vienes o no.
I don’t care one bit if you come or not.

Importar un pimiento

Estar de mala leche

— To be in a mad mood (lit. to be bad milk)

Estoy de mala leche antes de tomar mi café por la mañana.
I’m in a bad mood before I have my coffee in the morning.

Tener mala leche

— To have a bad temper (lit. to have bad milk)

Mi esposo tiene muy mala leche. Él está siempre gritando.
My husband has a bad temper. He is always shouting.

(Just like with the expressions about bread, you must also watch out for these two about milk. Again, estar is used to express a temporary condition while tener shows a quality of character.)

Ser carne de cañón

— To be thrown under the bus (lit. to be meat for the cannon)

This expression refers to a person or a group of people (usually from a lower social station) who are blamed for something.

Los soldados del frente eran carne de cañón.
The soldiers in front were thrown under the bus.


— Holy smokes! Oh my goodness! (lit. oysters!)

¡Ostras! ¡Ese vino solo nos costó 4 euros y es excelente!
Holy smokes! This wine only cost us 4 euros and it’s excellent!

Are you familiar with any of these expressions?

January 27th, 2019

Posted in Culture, Learn Spanish

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