As we’ve talked about on previous occasions, learning sayings and expressions is an important part of mastering the Spanish language. Thus far we’ve discussed several different types of Spanish expressions in prior posts; we’ve mentioned common sayings, funny expressions, and must-know phrases, as well. One aspect of such sayings that we haven’t addressed, however, is those that have a double meaning. Often times, it’s this type of phrases that can cause confusion for a foreigner who may simply be taking the words at face value. In order to avoid confusion or embarrassment, today we’re going to list 4 Spanish sayings that have a double meaning.

Spanish expressions

Any Port in a Storm

Just imagine: you’re out to sea and face some type of mishap or trouble. What do you do? Find a safe haven, right? Of course the best option is to head to the closest port. Like life itself: when you have a problem or necessity, you look for the easiest and or most obvious solution. The Spanish have a saying which expresses the same concept, but in different words. They say, “En tiempos de guerra, cualquier hueco es trinchera”, meaning, “In wartime, any hole is a trench.” As one can imagine, in addition to meaning the above-mentioned, this phrase also lends itself to other interpretations :)


Hunger Sauce

As you well know — or whether you’ve realized it or not — Americans love to put bottled sauces on everything. Whether it’s barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, A1, or whatever else, it seems as if food wouldn’t exist in America without condiments. Spanish cuisine certainly doesn’t rely on such products, although there is a saying that exhorts us to use something slightly different. Though not a common saying, occasionally you may hear a Spaniard say, “El hambre es la mejor salsa”, meaning, “Hunger is the best sauce.” Are we just talking about food? You decide..


Plan B

Of course life doesn’t always work out the way we want, so why not have a plan B. For that matter, why not have several back-up plans just in case. After all, it’s always good to be prepared. An old Spanish saying not heard much these days that warns us against not getting stuck with nothing is “Ten siempre una vela encendida por si otra se apaga”. This phrase translates to “Always have a candle lit in case another one goes out”. Though this saying is obviously very general and can refer to practically everything, it’s not unusual for it to be applied to what you’re probably thinking. In Mexican Spanish the equivalent would be “Nadie baja al sótano vacío,” that is, “No one goes down to the basement if it’s empty.”

Spanish sayings

If it itches, scratch it

A very common expression used in Spanish nowadays is La sarna con gusto, no pica.” Literally this saying means that “Scabies, if desired, doesn’t itch.” The interpretation of this, though, is that if you do something because you want to, the negative consequences don’t bother you. A common example could be that if you stay up late because you were having fun, it doesn’t bother you that you’re tired the next day. There are those, however, who would give this phrase a double meaning in referring to other skin ailments that also produce discomfort or an itching sensation. Yikes.


Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter!

Here we’ve discussed just four expressions which often lend themselves to various interpretations. Of course there are more, but that depends on the context in which the sayings are used. Don’t put to much thought into them, though, you might just wind up with your mind in the gutter!