Thursday, June 26, 2014

pisar callos: step on toes

A couple weeks ago I had the strange and fabulous experience (in a beauty salon in Bogota no less) of having someone I didn't know recognize me from this blog and ask if I blogged at spanishforsocialchange! Woo hoo! It was a great small world moment - and particularly great because Katie runs a similar and wonderful vocabulary blog that I highly recommend: vocabat. To give you a sense of it I'm reposting below her entry on the term pisar callos (and levantar ampolla).

Not-so-happy feet

To further my goal of helping to stamp out Spanish-language ignorance, here are two common phrases that just happen to have to do with feet. And not just feet, but feet woes. Not to fear–sprinkling metaphoric mentions of blisters and calluses into your speech puts you at no risk of coming down with either of these podiatric ailments yourself.

When you talk about stepping on someone’s toes in Spanish (as in offending them), the equivalent is to step on someone’s calluses or corns. Pisar callos. As unpleasant as it is for someone to step on your toes, it has to be ten times worse for them to stomp on your corns.

Cuando se trata de innovar, no vale el consenso: hay que pisar callos.
When it comes to innovation, you won’t get anywhere with consensus: you have to step on some toes.

Llegó la hora de pisar callos y de poner al descubierto intereses oscuros.
It’s time to step on some toes and expose shady business interests.

No era mi intención pisar callos, tan solo quise serte sincera.
I never meant to step on any toes; I just wanted to be honest with you.
Feet drawings
Video de Zuluaga y el ‘hacker’ levanta ampolla
That’s a local newspaper headline from this weekend here in Colombia. Literal translation: Video of Zuluaga and the “hacker” raises a blister. Accurate translation: Uproar over video of Zuluaga and “hacker.” Or even outrage. To give you an idea, much of the country has basically been calling out, “Off with his head!” Short of that, that this miserable, mendacious, conniving toad at least recall his candidacy for the presidential elections that are next Sunday. More than just a blister, Zuluaga raised a festering, pus-filled boil.

Something that causes problems causes friction, and with enough friction you’ll get a painful blister. My experience with the phrase levantar ampolla is that it indicates an uproar, outrage, or indignation. But a quick glance around the Internet makes it seem like it can also be used for milder reactions such as annoyance, controversy, or raising people’s hackles. It also looks like it’s more typical to say levantar ampollas in many countries. To me, this phrase sounds like newspaperese: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before in speech.

Aprovecha para recordar las ampollas que está levantando la reforma de la ley del aborto en nuestro país. 
He took advantage of the opportunity to recall the outrage that the abortion reform law is producing in our country.

Beso de dos mujeres en Mentiras perfectas levantó ampolla
Kiss between two women on Mentiras perfectas draws fire

Can you think of any other feet phrases? One day I’m probably going to learn that in Spanish it’s don’t burn your bunions, not your bridges, and I really hope there’s no disgusting phrase revolving around athlete’s foot or ingrown toenails. I’ve shared before that a foul foot odor is called pecueca in Colombian and Venezuelan Spanish. (Pecueco/a can also mean something that’s bad or lousy.)
Both Spanish and English have an endless amount of foot/pie phrases, but I can’t think of any English phrases dealing with foot problems except for foot-in-mouth disease. There’s also the litany of problems you’d be stuck with the rest of your life if you were to actually shoot yourself in the foot.
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