Translation troubles: of the mannequin head

This week includes somewhat graphic literal translations and AR$100 body parts

Del marote

As per usual, I won’t divulge who we were talking about but someone was described as del marote in the newsroom. Let’s get the word marote out the way first, which I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a lunfardo term for “head” or general intelligence which according to the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary comes from the French word for mannequin head (marotte). To be del marote or its more common variant de la cabeza, then, means to be “off one’s head” or foolish — está de la cabeza, they’re off their rocker.

Funny that the Spanish version is “of” one’s head instead of “off”: our wild particularities are innate, thanks.

Me clavó el visto

This is a simple one, really, meaning to leave someone on read but it led to an unfortunate Spanglish translation of “stab me the seen” by Facundo. As in English, it refers to when you see that someone has opened or seen your message but for whatever reason isn’t answering. But as the graphic literal translation implies, we take it a bit more personally in Spanish, with the verb clavar (nail, drive, stab) hinting that the person is assaulting you with the read receipt.

This isn’t a new idea that came with the arrival of Facebook and WhatsApp: in Argentina, we already used clavar to say someone left you hanging or didn’t show up (me clavaste or lo dejaste clavado). Rather the opposite of its English counterpart.


Including gamba here as a cheeky way to make this, our 100th translation trouble, the slang term for AR$100. 

As a true testament to the swirling ecosystem of Argentine etymologies, I didn’t know that gamba meant shrimp in Spain and Martina was unaware that it means “leg” in Italian. Translation troubles all around.

As for gamba meaning AR$100, it seems to be a direct import from Italy where it referred to 100 lire bills: the idea being that the banknote gives you legs (although with our chronic inflation, how far it takes you decreases over time). Interestingly enough, in Chile they also say gamba but because the bill was originally shades of red — similar to a crustacean harvested in the north of the country. You can also use the word gamba when asking for support or a favor with “¿Me hacés la gamba?”: requesting the “leg” in “leg-up.” Figuratively.

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All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald