Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Stop giving ‘lata’ and learn to speak like a Mexican

Deja de dar lata, en lugar de echarte una pestañita ¡pónte las pilas y aprende español! (Stop giving cans and instead of throwing an eyelash, put in your batteries and learn Spanish). Whaaaaat? 

This doesn’t make any sense, right? Well, in Spanish it does.

Just as you do, we have idioms and slang phrases that help communicate our feelings and states in a more accurate way. As humans, we are always searching for new words that can describe us better, even if that means not making sense at all. That’s why languages are so fun to learn!

So today, we are going to learn 3 expressions for three different states: being sleepy, being annoyed by someone or you being that person who annoys others, and to get motivated and start working hard. 

Renewable energy batteries
What do batteries have to do with working hard? (Ganfeng Lithium)

Echar una pestañita

Explanation: “Echar una pestañita” is a colloquial phrase that means to take a short nap or a quick rest. It literally translates to throwing an eyelash, though the word “pestañita” refers to a little blink, metaphorically representing a brief sleep.

English Equivalent: “To take a catnap”

Examples in Context:

  1. Me voy a echar una pestañita para recuperar energías.
    • I’m going to take a catnap to recharge my energy.
  2. Estaba muy cansado en la oficina, así que decidí echar una pestañita en mi descanso.
    • I was very tired at the office, so I decided to take a catnap during my break.
  3. Me eché una pestañita antes de seguir trabajando.
    • I took a catnap before continuing working.

Dar lata

Explanation: “Dar lata” is used to describe someone who is being annoying or bothersome. It literally translates to “give a tin can” but is understood as causing inconvenience or disturbance.

English Equivalent: “To be a nuisance”

Examples in Context:

  1. ¡Ya deja de dar lata!
    • Stop being a nuisance.
  2. Hola Lupita, perdón que te dé lata a esta hora, pero de casualidad viste mis llaves, las traigo perdidas.
    • Hello Lupita, sorry to be a nuisance/bother you this late, but did you see my keys by any chance? I’ve lost them
  3. Ese perro no deja de dar lata ladrando toda la noche.
    • That dog won’t stop being a nuisance, barking all night long.


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Ponerse las pilas

Explanation: “Ponerse las pilas” means to get one’s act together or to get motivated and start working hard. The phrase conjures the image of putting in fresh batteries to become more energetic or efficient.

English Equivalent: “To get one’s act together”

Examples in Context:

  1. Si quieres pasar el examen, tienes que ponerte las pilas y estudiar todos los días.
    • If you want to pass the exam, you need to get your act together and study every day.
  2. Ya me tengo que poner las pilas.
    • I have to get my act together.
  3. Tienes que ponerte las pilas si quieres mejorar tu condición física.
    • You need to get your act together if you want to improve your physical condition.

So now you now how to “echarte una pestañita,” “dar lata,” and “ponerte las pilas” in Spanish! Have fun trying them out next time you’re having a conversation.

Paulina Gerez is a translator-interpreter, content creator, and founder of Crack The Code, a series of online courses focused on languages. Through her social media, she helps people see learning a language from another perspective through her fun experiences. Instagram: paulinagerezm / Tiktok: paugerez3 / YT: paulina gerez 


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