Irina Dunn 1970

For this edition of Wordsmithing/Palabreando Antonio was kind enough 😉 to share some of the most sexist proverbs and sayings that he could find with me…he was very keen to emphasise that there are NOT his opinions. Seeing as International Women’s day falls on the 8th March, we decided that language and the sexes would be an appropriate topic.

Let’s start with how women are often characterised by their talkativeness:

  • “Antes se queda el ruiseñor sin canción que la mujer sin conversación”

(The nightingale will run out of songs before a woman runs out of conversation)

  • “La mujer y el horno por la boca se calientan”

(Women and ovens heat up through their mouths)

There was a theory doing the rounds (circulando) quite a few years ago now that pre-historic women had developed the art of conversation as a way to while away the hours (pass the time) they spent in more communal tasks, whereas men were out hunting – an activity which for the most part is better done as quietly as possible.

I think it’s fair to say that both sexes are prone to (propensa a) chatter but there are a couple more Spanish expressions where women seem to recognise the problems with idle gossip (cotillas):

(I went to the bakery where I said a thousand shameless things and heard ten thousand more.)

(I went to do the washing in the river, spoke badly about others and heard worse about myself.)

Las Lavanderas de La Varenne. Oleo sobre lienzo, 85 cm x 160 cm. 1865. Museo del Prado

I have to confess here (or ‘fess up (confesar) as the Americans would put it) that I had a really hard time finding equivalents in English.

Whereas in Guatemala people are advised that:

  • “En cojera de perro y en lágrimas de mujer no haya que creer”

(Never believe a dog’s limp or a woman’s tears)

In England:

  • “Tea should be hot, sweet and strong like a woman’s kiss.”

(El té debe de ser caliente, dulce y fuerte como el beso de una mujer.)

‘El Beso’, de Gustav Klimt

One of the favourites that I came across while I was trawling the internet (buscando) was this Chinese proverb:

  • “A curious woman is capable of turning around a rainbow just to see what’s on the other side.”

(Una mujer inquisitiva es capaz de dar la vuelta al arco iris solo para ver lo que hay en el otro lado.)

Spain and England seem to agree about how women can be dangerous when angered, although the root of this phrase is biblical so neither country can take all the blame (ser culpable).

  • “De abril y la mujer, todo lo malo has de temer”

(You should fear the worst from April and women


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned)

There are many more examples of the way women have been viewed over the centuries contained in sayings and proverbs but what about today? How is language evolving when it comes to the equality of the sexes?

A classic example that I came across a few years ago was the concept (straight from Hollywood) of Dad bod or in Spanish: fofi sano. The definition being along the lines of a man who, once upon a time, was quite a regular (habitual) at the gym, who looked after (cuidar) his diet but who then met the love of his life, settled down (sentar la cabeza), had kids and kind of let things slide (dejar de cuidar) a little…The traces of his once well-defined muscles are still visible, but now there’s a paunch caused by the beer and pizza – bearing witness to his spending more nights lounging (relajar) on the sofa than working out (entrenar) in the gym.

I loved the Spanish translation of this – especially as it could be used in the feminine: fofi sana sounds great, but my concern was with the implied reference to body image that still exists. Men can have a dad bod (cuerpo de papi) and still be desirable; in fact women were reported to have commented that they preferred their men that way as it made them feel less threatened from the competition, but women are classed as MILFs (mum I’d like to f**k) at best.

Plenty of composite words have sprung up to put new pressure on us to be ‘beautiful people’. The word moobs (man boobs/tetas de hombre) at least shows one term that the media have come up with to take body shaming (criticar cuerpos) over to the guys but with: cankles (calf/ankle) tobillos tan anchos como las camellos), thankles (thick ankes – tobillos gruesos), thigh gap (un hueco entre muslos), muffin top (un pliege de piel que sobresale sobre el cinturón) and camel toe (efecto de pantalones muy apretadas) all being new words used to criticize women’s bodies, we win that particular battle hands down (facilmente).

It would seem, rather sadly, that in terms of language to describe the physique both sexes are now under the spotlight and receiving pressure from the media to get rid of (eliminar) any imperfections.

Is anyone winning the battle of the sexes?