War idioms in Spanish have nourished our language throughout history. During the last decades, Europe has lived a period of peace that is threatened by the latest tensions between Russia and Ukraine. However, Spain’s history is full of renowned battles, glorious victories and crushing defeats.
Of course, this warlike past has been reflected in idiomatic expressions. In today’s article we are going to learn some of the most well-known war idioms in Spanish.
War Idioms in Spanish: Ser una Bicoca
Nowadays, Bicocca is a district in Milan (Italy). However, in 1522 it was a park with a fortress that witnessed the crushing victory of Charles I of Spain against Francis I of France. The French army outnumbered the Spanish, but they had to cross a low hill and that was their mistake. It is said that 3,000 Swiss mercenaries lost their lives and the Spanish army had only one casualty. Exaggeration? Maybe, but the fact is that we still use this phrase to indicate that a product or service is very cheap:
Podemos comer un menú en este restaurante por 9 euros; ¡es una bicoca!
Poner una Pica en Flandes
Among the war idioms in Spanish, allusions to Belgium and the Netherlands could not be missing. In the time of Charles I (1500-1558), a religious war began between the Spanish Empire and the emperor’s homeland. Catholicism against Protestantism, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against France, England and…? the whole of Europe. No matter the reasons but the consequences for the Spanish treasury were disastrous. Therefore, sending soldiers to this war was costly in gold and lives. Today, we use the expression poner una pica en Flandes (put a pike in Flanders) when we have a job or a very hard task to do.
Debido a la crisis económica, encontrar trabajo ahora es como poner una pica en Flandes.
San Quintín Among the War Idioms in Spanish
Another of the war idioms in Spanish, has as protagonists the same armies but different kings. Philip II of Spain and Henry I of France fought this time in French lands. The first one decided to invade his neighbor. One of these battles took place at Saint-Quentin (San Quintín in Spanish) in 1557. Although Spain won this battle, both kingdoms lost many men. Consequently, today we use the expression armarse la de San Quintín to mean that a great disorder, chaos or disturbance is taking place.
Los manifestantes no quisieron marcharse y la policía cargó contra ellos: se armó la de San Quintín.
The Loss of Cuba Is Still Present
We move forward to 1898. This disastrous year for the history of Spain is being forgotten by current generations. However, the loss of our last colonies in America was a harsh introduction to the new century. Even a cultural and literary movement was baptized as the Generation of ’98: Miguel de Unamuno, Pío Baroja, Azorín or Antonio Machado are some of the great names of Spanish literature. So, if you had a disappointment or a failure in your life, don’t worry, más se perdió en Cuba (more got lost in Cuba).
Despite the war idioms expressions in Spanish that we have learned, believe me, Spaniards are not violent. If you want to come and visit us and you don’t know how to speak Spanish, don’t worry, más se perdió en Cuba: don’t hesitate and reserve Skype lessons here. Our rates are very affordable, you could say son una bicoca. Don’t listen to those people who say that learning Spanish is like poner una pica en Flandes. If I run into them on the street, I’m sure se va a armar la de San Quintín.