The myth says that cats have seven lives; or are they nine? Maybe six? Well, depending on the place where you were born, you might have heard a different amount. In some Spanish speaking countries, seven is the number. In Turkey and Arabic countries they claim felines have only six. However, in most of the cultures the saying is “a cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays”.
Actually, we’re not going to research the origins of this legend in this article. Our point today is to show you that cats are used in as many expressions as lives they have, and even much more. As we did with cat’s antagonists (dogs) at Spanishviaskype.com, you will have seven of those today.
1. Defenderse como gato panza arriba
Everybody knows that if a cat is being chased and has no escape, it will be inclined to lay on its back, swiping for its life (one of them). Metaphorically, that’s what we do when we have to defend ourselves and fight hardly for a difficult challenge.
Todo el pueblo está en contra del alcalde pero él se defiende como gato panza arriba.
2. Haber cuatro gatos
Maybe four cats might be a large number of animals depending on the situation. Therefore, in Spanish we mean a significant absence of people. You don’t want to hear that hay cuatro gatos at your funeral, or peharps you don’t really care.
No han hecho mucha publicidad de esta película y en el estreno solo había cuatro gatos.
3. Llevarse el gato al agua
Many cat owners say that their pets hate water. On the other hand, many others say that they love having a bath. Who’s right? Who knows? The fact is in our collective mind, cat’s hair bristles when they feel hydrogen and oxygen mixed. So, if you te llevas el gato al agua means that you succeed in an endeavour of merit.
Había mucha competencia en el mercado, pero mi empresa se llevó el gato al agua.
4. De noche, todos los gatos son pardos
“Pardo” is a color, reddish brown. It’s the color of grizzlies, whose translation in Spanish is “oso pardo”. Many cats look like that. Imagine at night, just moonlight. We guess it’s difficult to difference shades of colors. So, all cats are brown at night. If you hear this proverb, the other person is warning you to be careful on something or someone who is not what it looks like.
Has conocido a tu jefe hace solo unos días, pero ten cuidado, de noche todos los gatos son pardos.
5. Aquí hay gato encerrado
If you are thinking about a cat in a cage, forget it. In the 16th and 17th centuries in Spain, a little sack was used to keep coins under the clothes or at home. This sack was called “gato”. We’re not sure about why this name. Some people say they made this sacks using this animal’s leather; on the other hand, others think it was the name given to thieves, because of their feline skills to steal. Nowadays, the proverb means the situation is not clear, there’s something hidden we can not see.
Los estudiantes están muy silenciosos. ¡Qué raro! Aquí hay gato encerrado.
6. Dar gato por liebre
Again, another expression with hundreds of years. During the Middle Ages, rice and hare was an exquisite dish. The problem was that it was easier to capture a cat than a hare, and when they both are skinned, they are incredibly similar. So, today, if somebody gives you cat instead of hare is tricking you.
He comprado este móvil barato, del cual decían que era mejor que los de gama alta. Ya no funciona. ¡Me han dado gato por liebre!
7. Jugar al ratón y al gato
We started speaking about cats’ antagonists, dogs, but now it’s turn for the another enemy: mice. However, in this case, the expression doesn’t refer to the eternal fight between both contenders. You can use it when you are looking for someone and vice versa, but both of you are not able to find each other.
He estado en casa de mi hermano dos veces y no estaba y ahora me llama y me dice que él está en la mía. Parece que estamos jugando al ratón y al gato.
In conclusión, maybe hay solo cuatro gatos reading this article but, as usual, we try to defendernos como gato panza arriba. What we’ll never do is darte gato por liebre. If you want to improve your Spanish level, reserve a free trial lesson here, we guarantee you that at Spanishviaskype no hay gato encerrado.