Mucho ruido y pocas nueces is the way the Spanish have of describing a lot of fuss about something which ends up not being important or lacking substance.
It was the original Spanish translation of William Shakespeare’s late 16th century comedy ‘Much ado about Nothing’ and is used pretty much in the same sense.
However, it can also have a similar meaning to when in English you say ‘full of sound and fury’, ‘full of hot air’, ‘all talk and no trousers’, ‘great cry and little wool’, and so on.
If your level of Spanish is intermediate you’ll recognise that this version of Shakespeare’s title literally means ‘a lot of noise and not many walnuts’.
There are reportedly records of this expression in Spanish literature from years if not centuries before the man from Stratford-upon-Avon put pen to paper, such as Juan Ruiz’s The Book of Good Love (1330) or tragicomedy La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas (1499).
According to historians, the nutty analogy of walnuts and loud noises stems from the fact that in ancient times these hard shelled nuts used to be thrown from high up on castle walls and bell towers down to the ground, causing thunderous bangs.
Walnuts were a sort of mediaeval firecracker or banger, suggesting that Spaniards’ love of loudness is deep rooted.
In old times, walnuts were also thrown in the path of the newlyweds during weddings, again causing a bit of a racket and probably one or two injuries (walnuts and other nuts were eventually replaced by rice).
Other Spanish historians believe the expression could have originated as a result of the Siege of Amiens in 1597, around the time Shakespeare published ‘Much ado about Nothing’.
Legend has it Spanish soldiers disguised as peasants threw walnuts against the ground so that the noise would confuse French guards at the walls of the northern French town.
The clamour caused by the walnuts supposedly made the French soldiers bend down to pick them up, while Spanish soldiers seized the opportunity to walk past them and invade the town.
So next time you want to describe a lot of fuss about something or someone which in reality is not important or special, when someone makes threats that are never met, or when big promises are made but never kept, remember the interesting history of this Spanish expression.
Él siempre hace muchas promesas pero al final es mucho ruido y pocas nueces.
He always makes big promises but in the end he’s all mouth and no trousers.
¡Mucho ruido y pocas nueces! Decían que venían Los Rolling Stones al festival pero al final no actúa nadie famoso.
Much ado about nothing. They said The Rolling Stones were coming to the festival but in the end nobody famous is playing.