April 2015

Some rain-related Galician sayings

Some time ago I wrote a post about some popular sayings in the English language. Today it's time to talk about a couple of funny sayings in the Galician language.

As you may know, I'm from Spain, but when I tell people I always specify that I'm from the part of Spain where it's rarely sunny and people aren't particularly fond of flamenco. Then people often say "oh, Basque?" and I explain that the Basque Country is in the North, while I'm from Galicia, in the North-West. In Galicia we have our own language, fittingly called "Galician", which is related to Portuguese (they were one and the same language until the 14th century, though there are many people who claim they still are.)

Galicia is notorious in Spain because it's way rainier than the rest of the country. Its capital is Santiago de Compostela, my hometown, which is notorious in Galicia because it's way rainier than the rest of the region. So I assume it wouldn't surprise you if rain featured heavily in our popular sayings. This post, in fact, is about three of those sayings.

The first one is a proverb: "nunca choveu que non escampara", which means "it's never rained for so long that it didn't eventually stop". For my region, that's quite an uncharacteristically optimistic saying that means that bad things don't last forever, so there's no need to despair. Or perhaps it's just that it rains so relentlessly that people need to be reminded that it will stop.

The second one is something you say to someone who's acting foolish or making little sense. "A ti chóveche", literally means "it's raining on/in you". You can say it too of a third person: "a ese home chóvelle" ("it's raining in that man"). I'm guessing it's short for "a ti chóveche na cabeza" ("it's raining inside your head"), which to me is quite evocative. It's basically saying that this person's head is so empty there's enough room for water to evaporate, gather into clouds, condensate and precipitate in the form of free-falling drops of water. That's quite a lot of emptiness.

The third and final one for today is "xa choveu", which means "it has rained [quite a bit since then]". You say it to express that quite a long time has elapsed since something. For example, you show someone a photo of your childhood, and this conversation ensues:

"Mira que delgado estaba nesta foto." ("Look how thin I was in this photo.")
"Xa choveu." ("It's been quite a while since.")
"Vai tomar polo cu." ("I resent that remark.")

The last sentence is not translated literally, because I've often observed that English speakers have a lower tolerance for profanity than Galician speakers :-)

For now, that's it for rain-related Galician language sayings. I should probably write a post about Galician language profanity, since we have quite a bit of it, and it's quite creative even for rest-of-Spain standards :-)

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