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A word to the wise

A word to the wise

THE MUSIC MAKER ·

The word 'hombre' in Spanish is one of those multi-use tools which often comes in handy to extricate oneself from awkward situations

PETER EDGERTON / WWW.PETEREDGERTON.COM

Friday, 3 February 2023, 16:34

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The hilariously precocious two-and-a-half-year-old in the local village has taken to finishing everything he says with the word 'hombre'. This is a touch of genius.

The word 'hombre' in Spanish is one of those multi-use tools which often comes in handy to extricate oneself from awkward situations much the same as the phrase 'ya ves' allows you to feign interest in somebody's interminably boring yarn while actually wondering about what Natalie Imbruglia is having for her tea. 'Hombre' brings with it a vague sense of bonhomie, spiked with the implication that you're suggesting what the other person has just said is actually quite beyond the pale to the point of being outrageous. This is no mean feat for a single word. Here are some examples with their corresponding translations.

"Hi Paco, can you help me with my house removal job at the weekend?"

"Hombre.." ("I would if I could but I can't for reasons as yet unspecified. By the way, I can't believe you had the cheek to ask, my good friend.)

On the train. Man standing to man sitting:

"Why don't you let this pregnant woman have your seat, hombre?" ("Are you blind you self-centred oaf? I'm livid about your lack of basic manners but, you know, I don't want any conflict, so do the right thing for heaven's sake and please ignore the steam emanating from my ears.")

"So that'll be 40 euros for the parts and two gazillion more for the labour. Changing spark plugs is an eight-man job these days."

"Hombre.." ("I don't agree, don't take me for a fool. We both know this is a rip-off and, in a very civilised way, I'm giving you a chance to revise your price before I call the police.")

"My dearest María, will you make me the happiest man alive and agree to marry me?"

"Hombre.." ("Oh, my dear Pepe, it's not really the right time to ask, is it? I'm so sorry." Laced with: "There'll never be a right time. Are you serious? Look at the state of you.")

Back to the village and the toddler. As I left the bar and headed for the bus stop, his last words were ringing in my ears.

"I want an ice cream. A chocolate one, hombre." I'm sure he got his wish. After all, what kind of hardened heart could resist such a perfectly weighted petition?

Like I say, a touch of genius.

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