Off topic: Translation/Interpretation of Universal Lies (Eng>Span)
Thread poster: Arturo Delgado

Arturo Delgado  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:16
English to Spanish
Jan 24, 2007

The phone is ringing at the other end of the line and it clicks as it is being answered. A voice says quickly, “Hello; will you hold for just a minute, please?” Then there is another click, followed by silence. A minute goes by, then two, soon five; finally, twenty minutes later, you hang up because you realize that the person who asked you to wait for “just a minute” did not mean a sixty-second minute. She used a universal lie.

Universal lies are simply phrases or statements which carry no accuracy or true meaning whatsoever. This, as you know, represents a big problem for translators and interpreters, for whom accuracy and meaning are extremely, extremely important. The first problem, however, is that we are so used to hearing and using universal lies that every time is more difficult to identify them, but don’t you to worry because, in order to help you avoid dealing with universal lies unprepared, I am now providing you with a list of the most common ones, classified by the environment in which they are generally heard or used (and FULLY translated into Spanish), for quick and easy identification:

- “I am going to put you on hold for just a minute.” Lo voy a poner en espera; tome asiento porque parado se va a cansar.
- “Mr. Quinn is in a meeting right now.” El señor Quinn está ocupadísimo en una reunión con cinco muchachas de MySpace.
- “We’ll take care of that first thing in the morning.” Atenderemos su asunto a primera hora de la mañana, aunque no sabemos cuál mañana será esa.
- “You deserved that promotion. Good for you!” Muy merecido tu ascenso. Que bueno para ti…y que mal para todos los que, a partir de hoy, te odiamos a muerte.
- “We are studying your application.” Estamos revisando su solicitud, pues aún no nos decidimos entre crematorio o incineración.

1. From Dad to Mom:
“I had to work overtime, darling.” Tuve que trabajar horas extras, amor. Si supieras cómo he sudado.
2. From Mom to Dad:
“You don’t need to give me any explanations; I trust you.” No me debes ninguna explicación. Tengo absoluta confianza (en que te pillaré pronto y te quitaré todo, empezando por la casa y los niños).
3. From brother to sister:
“I promise I’ll share it with you.” Te prometo que lo comparto contigo…si no te incomoda recibir la mitad de nada.
4. From sister to brother:
“You didn’t get any phone calls.” No te llamo nadie; al menos nadie que a mí me importe.

- “You should know that you are the first woman that…” Te cuento que tú eres la primera mujer (de esta semana) que…
- “I’d never kissed anybody on the first date.” Nunca había besado a alguien durante la primera cita. Siempre beso, y todo lo demás, inmediatamente al final de la cita.
- “Would I lie to you?” ¿No le miento a la otra y te voy a mentir a ti?

- “We’re here to help you.” Estamos para servirle…cuando no estemos ocupados.
- “Drastically reduced.” Rebajado de carísimo a un poco caro.
- “…or your money back, guaranteed.” …o le devolvemos su dinero (lo que quede de él, se entiende).

I hope this list helps you become competent at identifying universal lies and translating or interpreting them with all their inaccuracy and hidden meaning. Please, be on the lookout for them at all times because they pop out in any conversation when you least expect them. Good luck and “have a nice day.”


Marcela Mestre  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:16
English to Spanish
one that I particularly hate Jan 24, 2007

See you one day = Nos vemos algún día. "Algún día" doesn't exist in the almanac!

Great idea, Arturo!


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:16
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
The most dubious of all? Jan 24, 2007

Surely the worst (and most frequently used?) of all is:
"The cheque is in the post".
True meaning: The cheque is in the chequebook, or at best, in the bottom of the accounts clerk's out-tray, and she's on holiday for a fortnight.
Then there's:
"Don't worry. I've had a vasectomy".
True meaning: I'm not worrying. I haven't had a vasectomy.


Local time: 19:46
Portuguese to English
+ ...
lighter still Jan 25, 2007

We will revert to you soon = no estamos interesados en su propuesta


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Translation/Interpretation of Universal Lies (Eng>Span)

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