Most but not all of these phrases are common in the Dominican Republic as well as in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world while others, like guayando la yuca are uniquely Dominican or regional.
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Earlier this year when we posted the first list of 15 Spanish sayings and idioms linked to food, several of our readers made some great suggestions. Thanks to their help we are now proudly presenting our second compilation.
As with the first list, most but not all of these phrases are common in the Dominican Republic as well as in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world while others, like guayando la yuca are uniquely Dominican or regional. One or two, like chorizo, are rarely heard in the Dominican Republic in this particular context but are well known in other Spanish-speaking countries. Several are more difficult to translate than others. A few – such as con las manos en la masa have equivalents in English, while a couple, like papa caliente can be translated directly into English.
◦ Darle la vuelta a la tortilla – literally “to flip the omelette/tortilla”, but figuratively it means to change the subject, change opinion or turn the tables.
◦ Un ñame – a yam – a dimwit.
◦ Con las manos en la masa – literally “with their hands in the dough”, the exact equivalent of being caught “red-handed” in English.
◦ Cojer los mangos bajitos – to pick the low-hanging mangos – exactly like the English “to pick low-hanging fruit” meaning to take the easiest option.
◦ Al pan, pan y al vino, vino – Call bread bread, and wine wine. To tell it like it is, or to call a spade a spade
◦ En todas partes cuecen habas. They cook beans everywhere - people have the same problems everywhere.
Una torta/una galleta – literally a cake or a tart/a cookie but it actually means a slap across the face. Galleta is the expression you’ll hear in the DR.
◦ Un bombón, un guayabo, un pollo, un filete, un queso – candy, guava, chicken, and cheese, all used in different countries to describe a very attractive person.
◦ Guayando la yuca – grating cassava – working hard, unlike “amarrando la chiva” – tying up the goat, which means to work very slowly.
◦ Como un fideo – like a noodle – to describe someone who is very thin.
◦ Una papa caliente – a hot potato, as in English – a dangerous subject, too hot to handle.
◦ Chorizo – sausage – thief. Used especially in Spain to describe corrupt politicians.
◦ El hambre es el mejor sazón – Hunger is the best sauce. See also: A buen hambre, no hay pan duro - When you’re really hungry, there’s no such thing as hard bread.
◦ Pisando huevos – walking on eggs – the same meaning as in the English “walking on eggshells” – treading carefully to avoid causing upset.
◦ Aplatanado/a – to become plantain-like. In the Dominican Republic, this is famously used to describe a foreigner who has assimilated or “gone native” by adopting Dominican customs and practices and speaking Spanish like a local, but in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, where plátano means banana, it means to be dazed and confused.