How close is too close?

4 October 2006
5:10 PM

At the school where I work Alejandra and I trade translations. She tells me how you say such-and-such in Spanish and I tell her how to say this and that in English. One of my favorite things is swapping sayings because the ideas cross cultures, but the way of expressing them differs. In English, you’re between a rock and a hard place. In Spanish, you’re between the sword and the wall.

The other day I described two friends as peas in a pod. That prompted me to ask Alejandra how you would say that in Chile. Turns out they have not just one, but two descriptions for close friends. One is uña y mugre. As in “Jack and John are uña y mugre,” which is to say they are fingernail and the crud under your fingernails. Flattering, huh? That’s nothing compared with option two, poto y calzón. Saying “Those two are poto y calzón,” means they are butt and underwear. When you put it that way, it makes me think that maybe those friends are a little too close. I’ll stick with peas in a pod.

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