Speaking properly, has been considered a value of education, status and even wealth. So, why do we have many examples of fights, arguments and even guerras (wars) along history? Certainly, a wrong polite set expression, an incorrect adaptation of our language register or an inappropriate use of a double meaning word can unleash a disaster.
Unfortunately, wars are in the human being’s genetic code. Many of them there have been in our past and there will be in the coming centuries (don’t be fooled). These historical events have left a mark on Spanish language. Let’s learn some of these expressions.
Many of our students on www.spanishviaskype.com are German. Maybe they already know this fact but do you know the origin of word “guerra”? Of course, it comes from old German “werra” (disorder, fight), that evolved into “war” in English. Another sources claim that the origin is more onomatopoeic: German warriors used to start a battle crying “woa” or “guaha”. Anyway, there is no doubt about German etymology.
Maybe the warrior spirit of House of Habsburg, which reigns in Spain during two centuries, had an influence on the coming expressions we are going to learn:
- Poner una pica en Flandes (literally, put a pike in Flanders). We can say this when we have a very hard work or task to do. In times of Carlos I (1500-1558) a war of religion between the Spanish Empire and the Netherlands started. Catholicism against Protestantism, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against France, England and… all Europe. It doesn’t matter the reasons but the consequences for Spanish treasury were disastrous. So, sending soldiers to this war was expensive in gold and lives. For example: encontrar trabajo actualmente es como poner una pica en Flandes.
- Ser una bicoca (to be a bargain). Bicocca is now a district in Milan. However in 1522 was a park with a fortress which lived a crushing victory of Carlos I against Francis I. French army outnumbered Spaniards, but they had to cross a low hill and that was their mistake. It’s said that 3000 Swiss mercenaries lost their lives and Spanish army had just one casualty. Exaggeration? Maybe, but the fact is we still use this sentence: El menú de este restaurante cuesta 9 euros: ¡es una bicoca! (the menu of the day costs 9 euros in this restaurant: it’s a bargain!).
- Se armó la de San Quintín (to be a great commotion). Same armies but different kings. Felipe II of Spain and Henri II of France fought this time in French land. The first one decided to invade his neighbor. One of these battles took place in Saint-Quentin (San Quintín in Spanish) in 1557. Even though Spain won this battle, both kingdoms lost many men. Consequently, today we use this expression to refer that a great mess, chaos or disturbance is happening. For instance, Estaban haciendo mucho ruido en la fiesta y cuando llegó la policía, allí se armó la de San Quintín (they were making much noise in the party and when the police arrived, all was a chaos).
- Más se perdió en Cuba (literally, more was lost in Cuba). We move forward, until 1898. This dreadful year for Spanish history is being forgotten by current generations, but the loss of our last colonies in America was a hard introduction into the new century. Even a cultural and literary movement was baptized as La Generación del 98: Miguel de Unamuno, Pío Baroja, Azorín or Antonio Machado are some of the biggest names of Spanish literature. So, if you had a disappointment or failure in your life, don’t worry, más se perdió en Cuba.
In spite of all these events, believe me, Spanish people are not violent. If you want to come to visit us and you can’t speak Spanish, don’t worry, más se perdió en Cuba: don’t hesitate and reserve a free trial class via Skype here. Our fees are very affordable, I could say son una bicoca. Don’t pay attention to these people who say that learning Spanish es como poner una pica en Flandes. If I meet them in the street se va a armar la de San Quintín.