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.”

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