C Flat Major Key Signature

Tiene bemoles la cosa.

bemol [noun, m] – flat  (musical term), plural form used as part of an expression (see below)

Recently I’ve been struggling with a decision I needed to make in my professional life – my work-life balance was suffering and I knew I had to let a valued client go. I mentioned my dilemma to my subtitler friend Marta yesterday and she said that “a veces hay que echarle bemoles” (sometimes you have to grow a pair). Wise words, Marta! (To learn more fabulous expressions from Marta, check out her cinema translation blog here.)

I had a vague inkling that bemol was a musical term, but of course I had to look it up, because a “vague inkling” is never enough! I found that “bemol” means “flat“, as in “El Concierto de Brandeburgo no. 6 de Bach es en si bemol mayor” (Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 is in B flat major). I find musical language super tricky to translate because I only know the system I was taught – C major, D minor, etc., so I always have to picture Julie Andrews singing “Doe a deer” to work out the equivalent in Spanish! (It is also important to remember that “tea – a drink with jam and bread” is actually “si” not “ti” in Spanish.)

‘Scuse the lengthy digression. Obviously, from the context, “echarle bemoles” is an elegant way of saying “echarle narices” or (if you’ll pardon my français) “echarle cojones“. I checked out the online language geek forums and no one seemed sure of the origin of the expression, although an interesting suggestion was that if something “tiene bemoles” it means it’s very difficult because, well, can you even imagine trying to play a piece with the key signature in the image at the top of this post?!

Anyway, dear reader, if you’re also struggling with one of those tough decisions you’ve been putting off to your detriment, take Marta’s advice and “échale bemoles“. I did yesterday, and I feel better already!


2 thoughts on “bemoles

  1. ladymartha

    I’ve sometimes wondered about the etymology of this euphemism for “cojones”, ahem…. but your explanation makes sense. I like this expression too, it’s subtle and musical 😉 Thanks for the mention. And I hope -as a matter of fact, I am sure of it- that your brave decision will be positive not only in the medium but in the long term.

  2. My Little Spanish Notebook Post author

    Yeah, subtle and musical; I love it!!! I’ve just added a new category to my blog – “useful euphemisms”! My potty mouth often stops me mid-flow when I’m speaking Spanish to a client or an older person – there are times that only a swearword will do! I need to talk to you more, Lady Martha and learn more elegant expressions. 🙂


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