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Spanish Secrets: Popular Spanish Phrases

...Having dutifully signed the legal papers, we handed Maruja a clean, white envelope containing a small bundle of crisp, fifty-euro banknotes. Contorting my facial muscles I managed to produce a strained impression of a polite smile. She opened the envelope and pulled out a virgin note. With the tips of her fingers she slid the note across the table towards us.

“This is for you. If you were poor I would have given you the land,'' she added mischievously...

Craig Briggs finally purchases a strip of land which will guarantee adequate access to an old Spanish farmhouse.

Following weeks of difficult and frustrating negotiations with our neighbour Maruja, she finally sold us the tiny strip of land. Throughout each step of these wearisome discussions, Maruja had always managed to surprise us with a parting salvo. Today would be no different.

Having dutifully signed the legal papers, we handed Maruja a clean, white envelope containing a small bundle of crisp, fifty-euro banknotes. Contorting my facial muscles I managed to produce a strained impression of a polite smile. She opened the envelope and pulled out a virgin note. With the tips of her fingers she slid the note across the table towards us.

“This is for you. If you were poor I would have given you the land,'' she added mischievously.

Once again she’d managed to leave us speechless and dumbfounded. With our business concluded we made a speedy yet courteous exit.

Later, we learned from Pablo that an important part of Spanish sales negotiations relies on the vendor’s perception of the purchaser’s ability to pay. If one arrives at the negotiating table on foot and looking like a vagrant, they will inevitably pay less than someone who pulls up in a modest car, looking smart.

These protracted negotiations left us with a pressing problem. There were now only eleven days remaining before Maruja and her husband Castro left the village and returned to their home in Barcelona. Consequently we needed to widen the drive and build the new wall before that date. Post-haste we headed for the home of Angel, the stonemason.

We pulled off the road and into his driveway. Large metal gates blocked our entry. We rang the bell and waited for a response. Two large hounds bounded up the drive barking their alarm. Moments later the kitchen door opened and Angel shuffled out. His tramp-like appearance never seems to alter. We explained the importance of starting work as soon as possible and completing the wall before September 11th. His assurance of beginning work next Tuesday was unconvincing. How anything ever gets done in this beautiful country is a mystery.

The Spanish have three very popular and frequently used expressions for such occasions.

The best known of these is – mañana. Literally translated it means either the morning, or tomorrow. Realistically translated it means: possibly tomorrow or perhaps the day after that. In a worst-case scenario it means – never!

Surprisingly most Spaniards seem quite happy to wait until mañana, even if this means waiting for ever.

Second on the list of most popular terms associated with work is – poco a poco.

Literally translated this little gem means: little by little. At first glance this seems a reasonable expression, but a Spaniard is quite happy to spend his entire life working on a single project. Failing to complete the task prior to meeting his maker is simply, by-the-by. It’s a phrase without a beginning or an end; a timeless expression without a deadline.

Third on my list, a list that could easily be entitled – “The Three Most Important Reasons Spain Did Not Have an Industrial Revolution” – is: a ver.

Its translation; to see, translates into literal English as; we’ll see. It’s generally used as a form of sarcasm, for example: Pablo asked me when Angel would start building the wall. I told Pablo that Angel said, “Next Tuesday”. Pablo’s response was a sarcastic – a ver (we’ll see).

As expected, Pablo’s sarcasm was well founded. Angel didn’t start work on Tuesday but he did begin later in the week.

As things turned out, the only people expecting the wall to be finished on time were Melanie and me. Maruja and Castro were quite happy that the work had begun and headed back to Barcelona as planned.

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Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs

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