Don’t Act Like an Idiom.

Díos mío....

If you ever consciously decide to live an idiom-free lifestyle, I bid you good luck. It’s tougher than a 3-legged Memphis street dog, if you know what I mean….


To avoid beating around the bush, an idiom is a common phrase whose meaning is different than its literal translation. The English majors at Wikipedia U tell me there are 25,000 idioms in the English language, which knocks my socks off.


I bring it up because Red Angle is doing some volunteer ESL work (English as a Second Language) and apparently I say little that makes sense to a native Spanish-speaker when translated directly. Throw in some Homophones (or homonyms… whatever) like Here and Hear… and I end up confusing myself.


The Spanish language has a bucketload of Idioms too. Here are 3 that you will here (doh!) on the jobsite. Feel free to break ‘em out when the mood suits you.





Dying.... No vale la pena.



it’s (not) worth the effort


I hear this most frequently in the negative form – something is No vale la pena…. Remember this by thinking about Value (vale) and Pain (pena). The Value of something is or isn’t worth the Pain.


Spot someone taking off his shoes into the home at Drywall Scrap…. “Oye, Capitán…. No vale la pena.Hey Captain, don’t bother – it’s not worth it.


I will usually accompany this statement with a wagging Index Finger, side to side like a windshield wiper. Your chosen level of informality is up to you (they will look at you strange when you call them Captain), but you know how I roll….






Pelo Rojo Mojo



don’t pull my leg


Because I am a tall skinny redhead who surprises people by speaking Spanish, let alone one who addresses them with austere titles like Capitán, they frequently like to fight fire with fuego and mess with me a little. A duel, eh? I accept. 


In these cases, I drop a little “No me tomes el pelo.” Literally it means don’t take my hair, which doesn’t make any sense, but it does add a subtle Spanish double entendre because of my aforementioned carrot top.


This idiom works great in almost all situations. If the Hispanohablantes are making fun of you, you’ll shock the heck out of them by calling them out on it. If they aren’t, well, they’ll feel guilty about having you think they were making fun of you. As Gordon Gekko said, “Guilt is Good.







alrighty then


This is an extremely versatile conversación closer. It’s the non-annoying Spanish version of Ace Ventura’s “Alriiiiiighty then!


It can mean any of the following and probably hundreds more:


Ok then…

Fine then…

Come on then…

Run along then…

Get back to work…

Got it, talk to you later…



Try these bad boys out on the big stage and keep me posted!



Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (, a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry. 

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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