Figures of Speech Figured Out
Learn Spanish in Costa Rica. Here are some phrases that can be useful when living in Costa Rica or traveling there.
buena nota — Literally “good note,” this usually refers to a nice person. “La vecina es buena nota” — “The neighbor is a nice lady.” Also an expression of approval or congratulations. “Ya te graduaste? ¡Qué buena nota!” — “You graduated? Well done!”
darle pelota — “to give the ball to someone,” to pay attention to someone, usually used in the negative. “Te traté de advertir, pero no me diste pelota” — “I tried to warn you, but you didn’t listen.”
hablar hasta por los codos — “to talk even from the elbows,” to talk and talk and talk
hablar paja — “to talk straw,” meaning to say a bunch of BS, or to speak of matters of little importance, or to kill time talking
hacerse el chancho, hacerse el maje, hacerse el ruso — “to make yourself a pig,” “to make yourself a dummy,” “to make yourself a Russian,” all meaning to play dumb, to act like you don’t know what’s going on
jalar las orejas — “to pull the ears,” to punish someone
llorar a moco tendido — “to cry until the snot comes out,” to cry a lot
manos en la masa — “hands in the dough,” caught red-handed, caught in the act
mita y mita — “half and half,” divided in two, as a bill at a restaurant. “Paguemos mita y mita” — “Let’s split the bill.”
moros en la costa — “Moors on the coast,” people nearby who can overhear a private conversation
ni lerdo ni perezoso — “neither slow nor lazy,” meaning fast
ni un cinco — “not even a nickel.” “Esa muchacha sale de fiesta con los compañeros y no anda ni un cinco” — “That girl goes out partying with her friends and she doesn’t have a nickel on her.”
¡Ojo! — “Eye!” Be careful, watch out.
pelo de gato — “hair of the cat,” meaning drizzle or light rain
pura bulla — “pure noise,” just rumors, nothing reliable
¡Seás tonto! — Literally “Be dumb,” this expression drops the understood “No” in front and actually means “Don’t be dumb.”
sudar la gota gorda — “to sweat the big, fat drop,” meaning to work hard
te conozco, mosco — “I know you, mosquito,” meaning “I know you really well, I know what you’re thinking.”
tener la camiseta puesta — “to have your T-shirt on,” to work hard. Ayer perezeó todo el día, pero hoy llegó con la camiseta puesta — “He slacked off all day yesterday, but today he showed up ready to work.”
tirar la toalla — “to throw in the towel,” to give up
tras de cuernos, palos — “behind horns, sticks,” meaning bad luck on top of bad luck.
¿Va llorar? — “Are you going to cry?” This means “Don’t be a crybaby,” “Don’t complain so much.”