Saturday, May 8, 2010

Luego, luego

This expression in Mexican Spanish took me a while to understand. You would generally hear this phrase when someone is giving directions.

Take the following example:

To get to the market from Plaza de La Paz, take Calle Juárez, in the opposite direction of Teatro Juárez, follow this winding street, pass the Jardín de la Reforma, and "luego, luego," you will bump into the market.

These are directions from the city's center to El Mercado Hidalgo, in Guanajuato.

"Luego" means "later" in Spanish, like Hasta luego, or "See you later." Then what does "luego, luego" mean, "later, later"? My first assumption was that it meant "far away," which doesn't really make sense because if you are giving directions, the norm is to refer to places within the vicinity.

Is it obvious now what this expression means? I had to chuckle when I figured it out. It means "immediately," or I guess "immediately after" whatever is being described.

In my eyes, this is virtually the opposite of the sense of the individual words. And in English, if we repeat a word, doesn't that mean we wish to create emphasis? (It was a big, BIG bash.)

I recently stumbled upon another expression that made me giggle: siempre no. Siempre means "always": siempre voy al mismo café (I always go to the same café). No, is obviously "no." So literally, siempre no is "always no."

Wrong. Plus, that doesn't really mean anything in English, unless, of course, you add a subject and a verb, like "She always says no." But this isn't the case here.

I asked a friend if he had landed a project he had been striving to get, and his answer was, "siempre no." Hmmmm... Is he implying he "never" gets the projects he works toward? That couldn't be it; he is a fairly successful, positive and motivated person.

My translation, once I figured out the puzzle, was: "In the end, I didn't get it" or "In the end, it didn't work out"—far from the literal "always no" solution.

These are a few examples of expressions that don't add up to the individual components. At the moment, nothing comes to mind which would serve as an equivalent in English—except the use of sarcasm. I feel that the English language is imbued with sarcasm; I am referring to the use of language in such a way to imply the opposite.

Some examples:

Thanks for coming out
Thanks a lot

Commonly used in English, these expressions said in a certain tone, mean the opposite. Let's just take the final example. If someone were to accidentally spill a drink on you, your shirt now stained, your immediate reaction could be to say, "Thanks a lot!" Perhaps a nice way to get the annoyance across without using foul language is a possible explanation.

I leave it to the reader's imagination to figure out what this phrase really means...