We’re living through complicated times, where war, an ongoing pandemic and the rising cost of living all seem to be mounting up.
But at least we can have a good old grumble about it, right?
If in Spanish you want to say to top it all off or to make matters worse, you say “para colmo” before mentioning what this undesirable cherry on the cake is.
Ha subido mucho el precio de la luz y de la gasolina y, para colmo, también el de los alimentos.
Electricity and petrol prices have gone up a lot, and to make matters worse, also food prices.
Está lloviendo a cántaros y, para colmo, tengo un pinchazo en la rueda.
It’s raining cats and dogs, and to top it off, I’ve got a flat tyre.
The noun (el) colmo isn’t used very often in Spanish on its own, but it means the peak, the rim, the brim of something.
On the other hand, the expression el colmo de los colmos is very common and means the worst of the worst.
Pagarle un pastón a un nutricionista para después comer hamburguesas todos los días es el colmo de los colmos.
Paying a nutritionist a fortune to then eating hamburgers every day is the worst of the worst.
It’s also traditional for some jokes in Spanish to start with the question ¿Cúal es el colmo de los colmos? to denote irony.
¿Cúal es el colmo de los colmos? Que un mudo le diga a un sordo que un ciego les esta mirando.
What’s the worst of the worst? If a mute person tells a deaf person that a blind person is looking at them.
Then there’s the verb colmar, which can mean to fulfil or meet (a target), to fill to the brim (of a glass) or reach the limit (usually patience), but again such uses aren’t very common in modern Spanish.
But this does lead us to a fantastic Spanish expression that is used all the time in Spain – la gota que colmó el vaso – which in its most literal sense translates to ‘the drop that overfilled the glass’ but in reality has the same meaning as the ‘last straw’ or ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ in English.
La invasión ilegal de Ucrania por parte de Putin fue la gota que colmó el vaso para el pueblo ruso.
Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine was the last straw for the Russian people.