Translation troubles: the truth of the milanesa

A look at what bilingual food for thought the newsroom had on its plate this week

milanesa plato question mark

Trabajo en negro/blanco

In honor of International Worker’s Day, and bearing in mind that the Lower House approved the omnibus bill with its multiple labor reforms, here’s a work-related phrase that’s come up a lot recently and we’d rather it didn’t. In Argentina, people refer to unregistered or informal work as trabajo en negro (literally “work in black”). Meanwhile, employment that’s above board — i.e. with a contract, paid time off, health insurance, etc. — is en blanco (“in white”).

Given the acknowledgment of its racist connotations, in recent years there’s been a push toward just calling it what it is, trabajo no registrado (“unregistered” work — an awkward translation but infinitely preferable to the first). 

Correrse la bola

The ball has moved! Similar to something snowballing in English, when Juan said that empezó a correrse la bola (the ball started to roll) he meant that the word had gotten out. In this case, that Martina’s place is safe haven for cats. Not that she meant to get that ball rolling, which would be the literal translation and means something quite different.

The traditional Spanish definition of correrse la bola seems to imply that the news that’s being spread like wildfire is in fact uncorroborated or potentially untrue. But in Argentina, it just means that the cat is out of the bag — or dropping by Martina’s place to pilfer the cat food meant for her own feline companions.

La verdad de la milanesa

Why would you say something so prosaic as “the truth of the matter” when you could say “the truth of the milanesa”? Friday was Milanesa Day, an informal date to celebrate the quintessentially Argentine dish descended from the Italian cotoletta alla milanese which can be eaten in a myriad of ways: with mash, “on a horse,” or “Neapolitan style” (anathema to the Italian north/south divide, I know). 

But what on earth is the verdad de la milanesa? Ironically, there doesn’t seem to be one true story as to why we say this. Theories range from international debates about the original recipe (the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, or indeed…Milan) to the fact that you can’t know the “truth” until you cut into it and reveal whether it’s meat, fish, soy, whatever the case may be.

Given how important they are to us, I’m not surprised that milanesas were chosen to represent irrefutable fact. Although if our newsroom chats about Milanesa Day are any indication, we’re all out here living our own truths.

You may also be interested in: Five ways to enjoy milanesas, Argentina’s favorite dish

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