I can name that sign in 3 words!

18 October 2006
6:44 PM


Here’s a broad generalization that I have little support for: It takes more words to say some things in Spanish than in English. Of course the reverse is true too as well, which is the beauty of speaking in broad generalizations. But I do have some examples. For one, I was looking for a word in my Spanish/English dictionary the other night when “no-win situation” caught my eye. The translation offered was “sitación en la que se haga lo que sa haga se sale perdiendo.” Perhaps there is a better way to say it that the dictionary isn’t familiar with. I move on to exhibit two, “ice rink,” which the dictionary translates as “pista de patinaje sobre hielo.”

You should keep in mind that these are dictionary matters, and despite your first instincts, you really shouldn’t trust foreign language dictionaries much. I move, however, to my third and final example, which is taken from the real world. While waiting in the Santiago metro, I saw the following warning on the ground: Ten precaución con la separación entre el tren y el andén.

Santiago metro sign

What the Santiago metro does in 11 words the London underground does in three: Mind the gap.


This is a scream! I was fearful — given the challenge — that I would fail to come up with the words. Then, I was back at the Bayswater Station on the Circle Line and ‘twas time to “Mind the Gap!” With the polysyllabic directive needed in Santiago, there must be a few people who add an additional “trip” to their touring. Cheers mate!

Fr. Jim Lewis

on October 18, 2006 10:31 PM

Here, is Quebec, you get to see the French and English translations on the same sign … which can also lead to some laughs.

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