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How do you say…?





One of the things that makes judiciary interpreting challenging and fun is the wide range of speech register that you deal with. From highly complex, technical, or formulaic legal speech to very colloquial or low register expressions, a judiciary interpreter has to be prepared to deal with the gamut of possibilities.


For example, consider some of the colloquial expressions that came up during an attorney-client visit at which I interpreted recently. Bear in mind that this is not a collection of expressions that I have compiled over time; this was all in one session. 😅 How would you translate these idioms into your non-English working language? Please leave your comments below


  • Roll over and play dead.

  • That horse is out of the barn.

  • White as the driven snow.

  • Let’s call a spade a spade.

  • Drilling a dry hole.

  • Nobody held a gun to your head.

  • Slap on the wrist.

  • My last lawyer sucked.

  • I’m done; stick a fork in me.

  • I get business because I mean business.

  • To fight tooth and nail

  • To live at the foot of the cross

  • Color me shocked.

  • A swing and a miss.

  • You have work the system or it will work you.

  • Move the needle.

  • Cat and mouse games

  • The train is coming: Do you want to get hit and dragged along by it or do you want to ride in the car?

  • They were riding me like Seattle Slew

  • Shoot your shot

  • Within spitting distance

  • God willing and if the creek don’t rise

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Here are some Spanish “modismos” that correspond to some of the provided:

*Roll over and play dead.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Hacerse el muerto."

* White as the driven snow.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Blanco como la nieve recién caída."

* Let’s call a spade a spade.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Llamar al pan, pan y al vino, vino."

*Nobody held a gun to your head.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Nadie te puso una pistola en la cabeza."

*My last lawyer sucked.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Mi último abogado fue un desastre."

*To fight tooth and nail.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Luchar con uñas y dientes."

*A swing and a miss.

- Spanish Equivalent: "Un intento fallido.

*Cat and mouse games.

- Spanish Equivalent: "El j…

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Awesome contribution Jackie! Thank you. I came up with the same ones you did during the interview with the exception of “te subes o te encaramas”. That was excellent.

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