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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘Darle la vuelta a la tortilla’

Flipping a Spanish omelette is an artform, but this is also an expression which has nothing to do with your culinary skills.

spanish expression darle la vuelta a la tortilla
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton that he can 'flip the Spanish omelette' in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spaniards love to refer to food in their idiomatic expressions, even when what they’re talking about has absolutely nothing to do with grub. 

We actually have an article which covers nine of these amazing foody expressions (which we’re sure you’ll enjoy after today’s Spanish Expression of the Day).

But what’s more quintessentially Spanish than una tortilla de patatas (omelette with potatoes)?

If you’ve ever made one, you’ll know that one of the hardest moments is when it comes to turning the omelette for the other side to cook. Some people carefully slide it onto a plate before placing it down again on the other side in the frying pan, whereas the more confident chefs will flip the tortilla directly from the sartén (frying pan). 

READ ALSO: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas

So what does the idiomatic expression dar la vuelta a tortilla mean?

Dar la vuelta a tortilla, or darle la vuelta a la tortilla in its more common reflexive form, refers to when you turn a situation around, from negative to positive.

So if a football coach encourages his players to darle la vuelta a la tortilla when they’re 2-0 down, he’s not asking them to put their aprons on and get cooking, he’s egging them on (pun intended) to make a comeback.

If a business deal is about to fall through, but your killer presentation manages to convince the investors to commit to the project, that means you’ve managed to darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Or if a couple whose relationship is on the rocks is able to darle la vuelta a la tortilla, it means that they make up and avoid the break-up. 

In its literal sense, the expression translates to ‘flipping over the omelette’ or ‘turning the omelette around’.

Often we can trace back the origins of certain Spanish expressions and find interesting stories, but on this occasion it wasn’t Miguel de Cervantes who came up with this saying whilst cooking up a mean Spanish omelette, with onions of course. 

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas – Is Spanish tortilla better with or without onions?

Darle la vuelta a la tortilla is a colloquial expression but it can still be used in all types of situations as it isn’t rude or derogatory.  

You can also say darle la vuelta a algo (turn something around), but why wouldn’t you want to use the tortilla expression if it’s fit for all purposes?

Examples:

¡Vamos equipo! Vamos a darle la vuelta a la tortilla y remontar el partido.

Come on, team! Let’s turn things around and make a comeback in this match. 

La reunión se puso cuesta arriba, pero supimos darle la vuelta a la tortilla y los inversores han comprado nuestro producto. 

The meeting was looking like an uphill battle, but we were able to turn things around and the investors bought our product. 

La situación se puso fea y parecía que iba a haber una pelea, pero Alberto con su labia pudo darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Things weren’t looking good and it looked like there was going to be a brawl, but Alberto and his gift of the gab were able to turn the situation around.

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘Montar un pollo’

If someone accuses you of 'riding a chicken' in Spain, should you be offended?

Spanish Expression of the Day: 'Montar un pollo'

In today’s fascinating Spanish Expression of the Day, we have a saying which may seem a bit confusing or even shocking to foreigners.

Montar un pollo, which in its literal sense translates as ‘to ride a chicken’ in Spanish, actually means to make a scene. 

So if someone is flipping out, running amok, getting excessively angry or boisterous and generally overreacting in a loud and noticeable way, the colloquial way of saying it in Spanish is that they’re montando un pollo.

In fact, there are several other ways of saying that someone is making a scene in Spanish. 

There’s armar un escándalo, hacer un drama, montar una escena and our personal favourite montar un numerito (as in perform a small musical or theatrical act).  

But going back to the ‘riding a chicken’ expression. Even though everyone writes it as pollo, the original expression was with the word poyo with a y, which means stone bench or kitchen counter. 

It originates from the Latin word podium, which is what Medieval Spaniards would bring with them to town squares, assemble and stand on to get the attention of a crowd when they wanted to give a speech, events which no doubt got pretty noisy and lively.

Montar in Spanish can mean to mount/get on (as well as assemble, ride or whip), so montar un pollo can really be understood as ‘getting on or setting up a podium’, which makes sense in terms of the expression ‘making a scene’.

If a person is giving someone a telling-off or berating them, this expression can also be used in its reflexive form by saying montarle un pollo a alguien. Similarly, the expression can be used in its reflexive form when describing a lot of commotion or disruption that’s taking place, as in se montó un pollo.

Examples:

Esa mujer le ha montado un pollo al camarero porque se le olvidó traerle los cubiertos.

That woman flipped out at the waiter because he forgot to bring her cutlery.

Hay unos jóvenes borrachos en la plaza montando un pollo que no veas. 

There are some drunk young people in the square making a scene that you wouldn’t believe.

¿Te quieres tranquilizar? ¡Estás montando un pollo y haciendo el ridículo!

Do you want to calm down? You’re making a scene and showing yourself up!

Se montó un pollo porque el novio le pilló poniéndole los cuernos.

All hell broke loose because the boyfriend caught her cheating on him.

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