De perdidos al río is a favourite one amongst Spanglish circles. Its literal translation is “From lost to the river” and there’s even a book with that title, about Spanish phrases.
This phrase is used when we’re walking down a really rocky road and we decide to take another risky step, which might drown us all. It’s a nature-inspired phrase. I always picture a group of people walking in the mountains (a group because of the plural of perdidos) wandering around with their compasses, looking lost. They might be tripping over stones and even falling into the river; or they might decide that they’re going to cross the river to get to the other side to see whether they can find their way back home, knowing that they’re taking a big risk that might end their lives.
You could however, also interpret the sentence as moving from being quite lost (metaphorically or physically) to deciding to change course to follow the river, which you know will take you to the sea.
And once you get to the sea, you might find your bearings again. But I think this is over analysing this phrase and using it in a different way to its common use, but hey, that’s language for you, open to interpretation.
So, having started with this expression about rivers, let’s continue taking a walk in nature and have a look at other phrases that also include rivers.
No llegará la sangre al río. The blood won’t get to the river. Again, you need to picture this to get a sense to what it means. Things are really bad (by “things” I mean an argument, a situation). Things are very bad. However, they won’t explode. We won’t see people punching each other to resolve an argument or getting revenge over someone else.
For this expression, we need to, once more, transport ourselves to the mountains. Imagine a battle taking place at the top of a mountain. Or, I sometimes imagine a murder, when someone sticks a knife into someone else, also at the top of a mountain and blood trickles down amongst the little rocks, all the way until it gets to the river. Too much CSI, or maybe some image from García Márquez’s book Cronica de una Muerte Anunciada, which I seem to remember (having studied it when I was 17) had blood flowing down the streets – it’s the downhill motion I remember.
And finally, I have one more river-based phrase for you: Cuando el río suena, agua lleva. (When the river makes a sound, it’s carrying water.) This, for me, is a much calmer version than “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. The English version sounds a bit dangerous, even a little bit violent. While the Spanish version seems a little bit calmer.
Of course, it does imply that there’s enough water for it to make a sound, but if you’ve even been near a small river in the mountains, sometimes the sound is calming and not too violent. Also, water, for me, has a calmer quality to it than fire, even if crackling fires can indeed be relaxing, and, of course, water out of control can be dangerous and horrifying.
So, there we go. Here are my expressions for today, all to do with rivers.
De perdidos al río, No llegará la sangre al río (I love how my Word document tries to change sangre to sangria) and Cuando el río suena, agua lleva.
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