David Lauman

How to wake up a drowsy official

In Funny stories on July 7, 2012 at 4:41 PM

By David L. Lauman, M.A. in Translation and Interpretation

20/20 Translations

Not long ago, I served as a Spanish interpreter at a series of US Government training courses and outings in the D.C. area for a group of visiting government officials from a Latin American country.

At one outing, to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA, another interpreter and I were assigned to accompany the visitors on a guided tour.  As we moved from one exhibit to the next, my colleague and I stayed in the background, listened to the guide and conveyed everything he said into Spanish over wireless transmitters as he spoke, while the visitors listened on their wireless headsets.

The guide was a Korean War veteran in his 80s.  While he was very enthusiastic, articulate and interesting, this wasn’t quite enough to hold everybody’s attention throughout the tour.

However, at one exhibit about a particular battle our guide was involved in, he suddenly got everyone’s attention when he said “we got our butts kicked!”  I had but a nanosecond to come up with a Spanish equivalent that would faithfully convey the guide’s colorful statement.  What ended up coming out of my mouth was “nos partieron el hocico” (=they snapped our snouts) to which the entire group burst out laughing!  One official who had been dozing off suddenly became wide-awake and joined in the laughter as well.

You might be wondering what getting kicked in the GM (gluteus maximus) has to do with getting one’s snout snapped.  Simply put, slang and humor are culture- and language-specific.  In this case, while getting one’s GM kicked conveys the idea of violent defeat in US English, getting one’s snout snapped is a common expression used to express the same concept south of the border.

© David L Lauman, 2013.  All rights reserved

Don’t let the language barrier keep you from communicating with Spanish speakers! David L. Lauman at 20/20 Translations, Inc. specializes in Spanish translation and interpretation for the worlds of business, law, finance and medicine. He holds an M.A. in Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and is a federal and state court certified interpreter. He can be reached at david(at)2020translations.com or at 303-667-6082.

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