Translation troubles: shovel-lifting in Good Airs caves

A peek into this week’s linguistic discussions at the Herald

I mentioned in a previous “translation troubles” that we often find ourselves thinning the veil between English and Spanish, introducing Argentine terms as they are with an explanation. It’s a continual balancing act by which we reach a fundamental skill: knowing when to stop. 

Good Airs

The biggest hurdle has been deciding what to do with geography and placenames. Often it comes down to what is recognizable: how many people would ask for directions to “May Square” (Plaza de Mayo) or take the train to “Tiger” (Tigre) for the day? If we were recommending a place to visit, like the Astronomical Observatory El Leoncito in San Juan province, telling someone to go to the “Little Lion Observatory” is just not particularly helpful. 

Then there’s the instinctive call: a wind farm in Tornquist called Vientos Bonaerenses was almost “Buenos Aires Winds,” which would have sounded quite unfortunate. Facundo at one point wrote “West Access” for the Acceso Oeste because it “sounded cooler” — but it just didn’t represent the highway that was being blocked.

In the end, we’ve landed on a rule of thumb by which anything smaller than a country can generally go untranslated (and have as many accents as it wants, to boot). But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the meantime — we’re considering getting an Argentine map of literal translations, featuring the provinces of Good Airs, Jump, Holy Faith, Currents, Missions, Between Rivers, Land of Fire, Holy Cross and Black River.

Levantarla en pala

This wasn’t a “trouble” per se, just a fun observation. One politician accused another of selling candidacies in order to levantarla en pala or “lift it with a shovel.” In this case, “it” refers to money and English came to our rescue with another tool from the linguistic shed — “rake it in.”

Perhaps a reader with enough gardening knowledge or Scrooge-McDuck-levels of money could enlighten us as to which is the more useful to keep our finances in line.


Speaking of money vaults and Heraldian veil-thinning, we can end on a classic. This week the government raided Buenos Aires City caves as the informal “blue dollar” exchange rate reached another record-high value. Well, the government raided cuevas, which is how informal currency exchange houses are popularly known. The “little trees” often associated with cuevas were not mentioned — arbolitos being the people who loudly offer passersby favorable exchange rates on the street. 

Whether you accept their services or not, as the terms imply, multiple exchange rates in Argentina are just a part of the scenery.

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