What does ‘Buscarle très pies al gato’ mean in English?

On my morning walk (in the drizzle and under grey west country skies) I found myself wondering about the above saying. I returned to my gaff and googled. I knew roughly what it meant, but

Literally Buscarle très pies al gato means to look for three legs on the cat.  Obviously it is a saying, so the literal meaning isn’t the actual meaning.

So what does it mean?

I found a reference to this on lasfrasesparahoy where they suggest that the Real Academia Española (big dudes who are officially responsible for overseeing the Spanish language)  state that it means empeñarse temerariamente en cosas que pueden acarrearle daño.

This translates as ‘insist recklessly  in things that can bring you damage’.  empeñarse could mean ‘insist on’ or ‘get into’ depending on the context but I think here ‘insist on’ is a better translation.

I found another meaning here the gist being No le busques tres pies al gato para indicar que no debe uno complicar lo sencillo o intentar probar lo impossible.  The expression ‘no le busques tres pies al gato’ indicates that you should not overcomplicate or try to prove the impossible.

Well, that seems similar but not identical to the meaning given by Real Academia Española.

I googled some more and discovered a definition stating it meant Significa buscar el lado negativo de las cosas ‘to look for the negative side of things’. I don’t like this one.

I googled some more and a common translation given is ‘to split hairs‘ . This means to argue about small or unimportant details.

Stop splitting hairs.



I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone use it.

So what does it mean?

I think the primary translation is ‘Don’t look for trouble/complications where there aren’t any’.

I think is can also be used in the sense of ‘splitting hairs’ E.g. Yo no le busco tres pies al gato, simplemente que me parece absurda la explicación dada. ‘I don’t want to split hairs but the explanation given  seems ridiculous to me’.

There might also be another meaning of ‘there is no point flogging a dead horse’. I’m not sure about this.

None of these match empeñarse temerariamente en cosas que pueden acarrearle daño which I may have mistranslated – which is distinctly probable.

After writing this,  it is still raining, there are still paw prints everywhere, my dog is still wet, and I am still none the wiser about this saying. I need to find more examples, and all will become clear.

Besos, peace, ciao



Sup doods?

There is a really neat film (three minutes) called  curvas which I watched on youtube the other day.

I thought I would have a go at transcribing it (although there were a few bits) which I have  been unable to understand. You can guess which these are from the ????’s.

In my experience comprehension is  much harder than yibber yabbering, as you can’t choose the words or language used by someone else. If you find comprehension easy then estoy muerto de invidia  (I’m green with envy), but I’ve never found this to be the case. I mean in circumstances when you are not talking to a willing victim (using baby language to help you) but to someone who is not making any concessions to your  status as a language learner.

Anyway enough musing and without further ado, I present to you the transcription in all its glory. Additions and corrections welcome, but please don’t tell me about punctuation.  I haven’t punctuated correctly as I can’t produce the appropriate upside down question and exclamation marks  on the keyboard.

Oye si que llego tarde.

Venga. Ahora nos vemos.

Hola. Necesitas ayuda?

Mi puedes llevar al pueblo?

Claro. Me espera que te quito las cosas que tengo aquí.

Joder. Coño. Que asusto me has dado. Que rapido. No? Que eres? Un ninja.

Arranca. Coño.


No eres del pueblo.

Mira adelante que esta carretera es peligrosa. Ten cuidado en esta curva. En esta curva, me maté yo.

Joder! ??????

Perdona ???????? desde tiempo  …. que no esta la curva que te quería enseñar. Vamos, que no esta aquí que me maté yo.

Esta no esta pasando. Aqui estoy solo.

Esta si … Ah. No. Espera que me he liado. Habia una casa y justo después estaba la curva.

No seria la mejor la casa de la valla verde la que tienes los dos mastines.

Que no. No me lies. Era una casa cona una puerta roja.

Esta …

Bueno ya esta bien.

Es que las carreteras las hacen todas iguales.

Mira vamos a dejarlos que no me acuerdo.

Ahora no lo dejamos.

And so on … At some point I will revisit this post and add the rest of the transcription.





Put your hands up if you think Spanish is easy?

Shame on you if you raised your hand.

I’ve been looking at Portuguese just to get a feel for the language (I’m not trying to learn it as such), but in a similar way to the idea behind the 52 languages in 52 weeks blog (although not so ambitious), I’m keen to expand my language horizons.

The dude behind 52 languages in 52 weeks project aimed to cover 52 languages in a year. The idea appeals to me, especially as someone who has difficulty finishing projects, but I digress.

Personally I think a more relaxed timescale such as a month per language is more suitable, allowing time off for holidays, good behaviour, work? and so  on.

As I said, I’ve been looking at Portuguese which has in turn made me consider Spanish again.

In Portuguese, as in Spanish it is in fact straightforward to string together simple sentences, as you will see when the fruits of my labour are released onto Surface Languages.

You only need to know some easy grammar/constructions to make a sentence. Grammar that you can pick up over a few hours. Subject followed by verb followed by object. Plurals add an s. Etc. Only two genders. Feminine nouns mainly ending in an a and masculine nouns mainly ending in o. Lots and lots of regular verbs ending with ar. And so armed with this information, you can make a simple sentence!

I’m messing around here, but the idea is sound. You can not do this with, for example, POLISH. Sigh.

I think it is this that gives the misleading impression that Spanish (and Portuguese) are easy languages to learn.

But, they are not easy to learn well. The initial barrier to entry, to start speaking is easy to overcome. But  anyone can speak a language badly, so don’t be fooled. It takes time to learn to speak any language well.  Even, the so-called easy languages.

And what about comprehension?????

How many of you who put your hands up are able to understand Spanish radio? Or films? Or native speech when it is not dumbed down? Or even directions when you ask ‘donde está el bar’?

Or you ask someone Qué tal? and they reply Estoy de mala uva. He pasado la noche en blanco. Easy? No, it takes time to learn these expressions. Easy is the wrong word to learn with any language. It gives the wrong impression.

The reason people erroneously consider these languages easy, is that it is (in comparison) to other languages straight-forward to start making simple (and I mean simple) sentences.

But they are not easy.

They are not difficult either.

But they all need time.



Spanish Colloquial Phrases

I am learning Spanish, and in an effort to improve my level, have started to learn more colloquial expressions.

I’m adding them here so I don’t forget them, don’t lose them, and also so at some point in the dim and distant I can add them to a new section in Surface languages.

Also, to include them here, I have to have used them at least once, preferably in speech, but written will do. 🙂

Spanish colloquial phrases that I’ve used:

Estar en Babia   to be daydreaming

Estar a dos velas  to be skint

Ser un loro  to be a chatterbox

Hacer la negra to have bad luck

Tener memoria de elefante    to have the memory of an elephant

Tener memoria de mosquito  to have the memory of a goldfish

Volverse loco   to go nuts

Irse la olla    to go nuts (se me fue la olla)

Estar de mala leche      to be in a bad mood

Importar un pimiento      to not matter, be important (me importa un pimiento quien gana las elleciones)

tienes que ir con mil ojos  you have to have eyes in the back of your head

Me lo pierdo    I miss out (from doing something I want to).

Me he pasado la noche en blano  I slept badly.

Mi vida está patas arriba  My life is a complete mess.  (patas arriba literally means paws upwards).

La casa está patas arriba  The house is a mess (un lugar muy desorganizado)

Levantarse con el pie izquierdo  to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Frase hecho    set phrase

Estás de broma!    You’re kidding.

He oido hablar de el     I’ve heard of him.

Matar el gusanillo         To have a snack.

Estar como sardinas en lata    To be cramped (like sardines).

a gatas                          On all fours.

fuimos al quinto pino      We went a long way.

pedirle peras al olmo      This has two meanings : to ask for something impossible, and  a similar meaning to the english ‘to get blood out of a stone’.

The first meaning is clear as an olmo ‘elm’ can’t produce peras ‘pears’. I don’t know why it also has the translation of ‘to get blood out of a stone’.

Watch this space.



Of crosswords, sentir and drzewo

I finally finished the crossword coding – if you are learning Italian you might like it.

Anyway, I finished the programming (spent all day playing with it) and thought I would tell my sister to get some feedback and general approval.

“I don’t speak any Italian” she said, and then looking at the crossword produced said “but I know that the Italian for Rome is Roma”. 

“You can press ‘check’ to check your answer is correct” I said and added “or press ‘cheat’ if you don’t know the answer”.

She entered ‘Roma‘ and pressed check.

It didn’t work?!! Huh?

I felt like a right numpty.

I’d made a newbie programming error and hadn’t checked for capitals. In the programming world ‘roma’ and ‘Roma’ are considered to be different. How my testing hadn’t revealed this is beyond me …

Anyway, it is fixed. Until the next ‘bug’ is revealed. Watch this space.

Back in the real world, today I learnt about some of the differences between the meaning of sentir ‘‘to feel’ in English and Spanish.

Confusing isn’t the word. ‘Es confuso‘ or ‘estoy confundido‘. There are all sorts of examples of sentir at word reference, and they have all left me none the wiser.  There are so many possible uses that I can’t see the wood for the trees.

But what I did learn (by saying in incorrectly) is that you can not say (using sentir), the city felt (or feels) safe using the English construction.

So, I made up three rules  to guide me in most situations:

1. Sentir  is on only applicable to ‘feelings and emotions’.

2. If you are referring to how you feel, then sentir is used as reflexive. So ‘Me siento triste por no entender esto‘.

3. If your ‘feeling’ relates to someone else, then sentir is not reflexive. So, ‘Siento lástima por — ‘ when you are ‘feeling sorry’ for someone else.

I’ve also finally remembered the Polish word for tree ‘dzerwo‘. Happy days. Make haste slowly. Etc.

Learning languages can be frustrating.





Patatas fritas, vino tinto and SIM cards

Here are a few useful Spanish bits and pieces referring to Spanish as spoken in Spain. Mainly so I don’t forget what to use in certain situations …

The Spanish word for chips is patatas fritas. And if you want a portion una ración de patatas fritas. Very useful for anyone with children. Especially when they reject tapas. It happens.

You are in a bar (or restaurant), order a bottle of wine and the waiter pours a smidge into your glass for you to taste. You can say está bien or está perfecto to indicate your approval. Unless you want to talk about tears, bouquet and the rest. The glass will then be filled …

If you don’t want to order a bottle of wine, you can always have a copa (glass) which in these abstemious days is probably for the good. So,  una copa de vino tinto should get you a glass of red wine. Una jarra is a jug and will get you a bit more. For example, una jarra de media litro is half a litre – in a jug. More like a carafe than a jug. I would say.

And never order ‘diet coke’ as this will confuse everyone. I think we only have this in the UK. Ask for coca cola lite or coca cola zero. 

You are in a bar, have finished your drink and want to pay. You are in a hurry and so you head to the bar (la barra) to pay. What do you say? You say quiero pagar la cuenta or cuanto es? or cuanto es lo nuestro?

At the end of a meal, assuming of course that you enjoyed it, use estaba todo muy bueno (it was all very good).

And then, after lunch, you need to buy a SIM card. Quiero compar una tarjeta SIM. And because this is confusing in any country no tengo claro qué necesito hacer (I’m not sure what I need to do).

Qué me recomiendas? (What do you recommend?)