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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘Darle la vuelta a la tortilla’

Flipping a Spanish omelette is an artform, but this is also an expression which has nothing to do with your culinary skills.

spanish expression darle la vuelta a la tortilla
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton that he can 'flip the Spanish omelette' in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spaniards love to refer to food in their idiomatic expressions, even when what they’re talking about has absolutely nothing to do with grub. 

We actually have an article which covers nine of these amazing foody expressions (which we’re sure you’ll enjoy after today’s Spanish Expression of the Day).

But what’s more quintessentially Spanish than una tortilla de patatas (omelette with potatoes)?

If you’ve ever made one, you’ll know that one of the hardest moments is when it comes to turning the omelette for the other side to cook. Some people carefully slide it onto a plate before placing it down again on the other side in the frying pan, whereas the more confident chefs will flip the tortilla directly from the sartén (frying pan). 

READ ALSO: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas

So what does the idiomatic expression dar la vuelta a tortilla mean?

Dar la vuelta a tortilla, or darle la vuelta a la tortilla in its more common reflexive form, refers to when you turn a situation around, from negative to positive.

So if a football coach encourages his players to darle la vuelta a la tortilla when they’re 2-0 down, he’s not asking them to put their aprons on and get cooking, he’s egging them on (pun intended) to make a comeback.

If a business deal is about to fall through, but your killer presentation manages to convince the investors to commit to the project, that means you’ve managed to darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Or if a couple whose relationship is on the rocks is able to darle la vuelta a la tortilla, it means that they make up and avoid the break-up. 

In its literal sense, the expression translates to ‘flipping over the omelette’ or ‘turning the omelette around’.

Often we can trace back the origins of certain Spanish expressions and find interesting stories, but on this occasion it wasn’t Miguel de Cervantes who came up with this saying whilst cooking up a mean Spanish omelette, with onions of course. 

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas – Is Spanish tortilla better with or without onions?

Darle la vuelta a la tortilla is a colloquial expression but it can still be used in all types of situations as it isn’t rude or derogatory.  

You can also say darle la vuelta a algo (turn something around), but why wouldn’t you want to use the tortilla expression if it’s fit for all purposes?

Examples:

¡Vamos equipo! Vamos a darle la vuelta a la tortilla y remontar el partido.

Come on, team! Let’s turn things around and make a comeback in this match. 

La reunión se puso cuesta arriba, pero supimos darle la vuelta a la tortilla y los inversores han comprado nuestro producto. 

The meeting was looking like an uphill battle, but we were able to turn things around and the investors bought our product. 

La situación se puso fea y parecía que iba a haber una pelea, pero Alberto con su labia pudo darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Things weren’t looking good and it looked like there was going to be a brawl, but Alberto and his gift of the gab were able to turn the situation around.

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Chachi’

Who would’ve thought that there’s a word used all the time in Spain that has something to do with Winston Churchill? Or so the story goes. 

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Chachi'

Chachi is a colloquial way to express approval for something or someone, in the sense of it/them being cool, awesome or great.

It’s mainly a word used by young people in Spain, so saying it to your bank manager or boss may raise an eyebrow or two, but it’s in no way derogatory or rude.

There’s even the expression ¡Chachi piruli Juan Pelotilla! that was popularised by a 90s’ kids show on TV called Telebuten, but it’s now a rather outdated way of saying ‘cool’ in Spanish. 

Chachi is certainly a rather bizarre sounding word and Spain’s Royal Academy actually has it recorded as deriving from chanchi (which nobody uses).

Linguists are not 100 percent certain about the origin of the word but there are two very interesting theories. 

The first is that chachi was first coined in the southern coastal city of Cádiz during World War II, at a time where hunger among locals and contraband at the port were both rife.

Smuggled goods from nearby Gibraltar were considered of the utmost quality as they came from the United Kingdom, and the story goes that Gaditanos (the name for people from Cádiz) referred to these bootlegged products as ‘charchil’, in reference to UK Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill.

Over time, charchil became chachi, a slang word which (if the story is true) came to mean ‘cool’ across Spain.

Other philologists believe that chachi comes from Caló, the language spoken by Spain’s native gipsy or Roma population. 

Chachipé or chachipen reportedly means ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ in this language spoken by 60,000 people across the Iberian Peninsula.

This could’ve been shortened to chachi and gone from being used like chachi que sí/claro que sí (of course) to chachi to mean ‘cool’.

Whichever theory is true, chachi is a great word to add to your arsenal of Spanish vocab. 

There’s also the Spanish word guay, which has a very similar meaning to chachi; we reviewed it here.

Examples: 

Carlos es un tío chachi. 

Carlos is a cool guy.

¡Pásalo chachi!

Have a great time!

La verdad es que es juego de mesa muy chachi.

The truth is it’s a very cool board game.

¡Qué chachi! Van a hacer un concierto en la plaza.

How cool! They’re going to hold a concert in the square.

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