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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish expression of the day: ‘Para colmo’ 

If you want to learn to complain in Spanish, here is an expression you can use when you're at your wits' end. Do you know what “colmo” means?

Spanish expression of the day: 'Para colmo' 
Want to know how to say the last straw in Spanish? Photo: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

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.  

Examples:

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.

Or

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. 

Example:

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. 

Example:

¿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. 

Example:

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.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

This adjective is essential slang talk in Spain, a word with lots of meanings, all of them fairly negative.

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

Chungo is a colloquial way of saying that something is difficult, dodgy or bad. 

It can be used to describe a variety of scenarios and it’s a great way of talking like a native Spanish speaker. 

You can talk about the weather being chungo if there are ominous black clouds up ahead.

If you’re stepping into a dodgy neighbourhood, then watch out because it’s un barrio chungo

If you bought a hairdryer at the rastro (flea market) and it doesn’t work properly, then it’s clearly chungo, and the seller is just as chungo.

Maybe you’ve just sat an exam with complicated questions, you’d call it un examen chungo.

Or if you don’t feel very well, then you’re the one that is chungo

There’s even an expression to say that things aren’t looking good – la cosa está chunga.

All in all, chungo is a very versatile adjective that you can incorporate into most daily speech even though it’s colloquial. 

Here are some examples to help you get used to using chungo.

Example:

Está el tiempo un poco chungo, mejor no vamos a la playa.

The weather isn’t very good today, it’s best if we don’t go to the beach. 

Example:

¡Ojo! Es un tío bastante chungo así que no te fíes de él.

Be careful! He’s a pretty dodgy guy so don’t trust him. 

Example:

Le has comprado un perfume muy chungo a mamá por el Día de la Madre.

You’ve bought Mum a really crappy perfume for Mother’s Day.

Example:

El barrio de El Príncipe en Ceuta es muy chungo, ¡ten cuidado!

El Príncipe neighbourhood in Ceuta is very dodgy, be careful!

 

Example:

Me encuentro un poco chungo, con mareos y nauseas. 

I’m feeling a bit bad, I’m dizzy and nauseous. 

Example:

¿Dama de honor cuando el novio es tu ex? ¡Qué situación más chunga!

Maid of honour when the groom is your ex? ¡That’s an uncomfortable situation!

Example:

¡La cosa está chunga! El Barça tiene que marcar cinco goles para clasificarse.

Things aren’t looking good. Barça have to score five goals to qualify.

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