One thing to the next

Yesterday I woke up with a fragment from a dream emblazoned on my morning consciousness. In the dream, I had called the janitor of my elementary school, a woman named Linda Newman. I have no idea why I remember her or her name, but for some reason I do. For all practical intents and purposes, though, she’s a complete and utter stranger. Anyway, I called her out of the blue, and she answered. When I asked if it was her, she confirmed that, yes, it was, and then she told me, “I’ve been deceased for three years.” All the interpretations I came up with later in the day were sad ones. Where do dreams come from?

This morning I woke up with Spanish on my mind, pre-parceled for a blog post. I’d like to think it came to me by way of a dream, but I’m not sure. In any case, that dream has faded away in the mists of late morning. As always, though, the words stayed.

For some reason, I woke up thinking of the Colombian phrase ir de culo pa’l estanco, which led me to think of equivalents. Another idiomatic phrase (and one of my personal favorites) is ir de Guatemala a Guatepeor. Isn’t it amazing? When my ex taught me that phrase forever ago, he thought up a pretty good equivalent: to go from Barbados to Barworseos. See what he did there? Smart, eh? In case you haven’t had your coffee yet this morning, the idea is to go from bad to worse. The general phrase for this would be ir de mal en peor. And in the half a second it took me to groggily think of these three phrases while still in bed, I had my blog post. Ka-ching!

Today’s phrase is simple. From something to something else = de algo en algo

I consider this an interesting construction because you would definitely get it wrong were you to simply copy the patterns of English. Someone thinking in English would say de mal a peor for from bad to worse, or de casa a casa for from house to house. Well, actually, you can say it like that, but it’s significantly more common and natural with en. Let’s look at some examples.

¿Por qué van de casa en casa los Testigos de Jehová?

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses go from house to house?

Espero que te salga el trabajo de intérprete, así se cumpliría uno de tus sueños, y así, poco a poco, de sueño en sueño se va construyendo la vida.

I hope you get the interpreter job because then one of your dreams would be fulfilled. And just like that, little by little, from one dream to the next, a life is constructed.

Eres como una mariposa; vuelas y te posas vas de boca en boca, fácil y ligera de quien te provoca.

(Just listen to the song, Mariposa traicionera–one of the best-loved songs in Spanish)

Fue de casa en casa arrastrando dos lingotes metálicos, y todo el mundo se espantó . . . (Cien años de soledad)

He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots, and everyone was amazed . . . (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Revisa tu currículum y minimiza la imagen de que vas de trabajo en trabajo. 

Go over your CV and try to minimize the impression that you bounce around from one job to the next.

Y si ando de novio en novio y de fiesta en fiesta, ¿qué más da?

And if I go from one boyfriend to the next and one party after another, who gives a shit?

I’m also reminded of a great comment that Esteban left me a year ago about men who go de flor en flor— men who flit from one unserious relationship or one-night stand to the next like hummingbirds on flowers. Fittingly, they’re also called picaflores, a synonym for colibrí.

Las abejas y las flores, de flor en flor

Did you know this construction? What other examples can you think of? I hope that your day goes de buen en mejor.

PD: This is my hundredth post! Feel free to send me a bottle of wine for the occasion. Flores also work, both flowers and compliments.


6 responses to “One thing to the next

  1. I use that phrase “de mal en peor” all the time. The Guatemala one I hadn’t heard since I was little, it,isn’t be a paisa one. For some reason reminds me of “hacer a las patadas”.


    • Hmm, interesting. I definitely don’t doubt you, but it was a Paisa who taught me the phrase. (Who actually just moved to Bogotá and is going to do a maestría en la Nacho— hey, maybe you’ll meet him)

      I didn’t know hacer a las patadas— thanks. Algo mal hecho?


  2. another good post Vocabat, let’s hope there’s a hundred more to come

    I really had no context for this saying until my spanish friend told me their equivalent “salir de la sarten para caer en las brasas”, which is the more common way we would express it in english I guess. “estancar” is a great verb though, and will definitely become part of my vocabulary.


    • Thanks. Yes, a hundred more!

      Ahh, out of the frying pan and into the fire. What a good phrase. The Spanish version rings a slight bell, but I can’t say that I know it. There’s also salir de las llamas para caer en las brasas. Thank you for reminding me of these phrases.

      I mostly use/hear estancarse for to get stuck, blocked, stagnant and its past participle estancado/a.


  3. Congratulations for your blog. I remember the day you started it.


    • Muchas gracias por las flores, Felipo. Me acuerdo de cuando te confesé que me daban ganas de crear un blog y de toda tu ayuda al principio. No sabía que lo seguías leyendo. Debes sentirte muy aludido siempre. Qué le voy a hacer, pues tus palabras están indeleblemente grabadas en mí, además son muy bellas. Un abrazo.

      Ah, y el vino ¿qué? ¿Dónde? Porque a mí sí que me provoca una botellita de Cillerero del Diablo, no sé a ti.


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