Con dos huevos by Héloïse Guerrier, and David Sánchez (review)
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Guerrier, Héloïse, and David Sánchez. Con dos huevos. Bilbao: Astiberri, 2014. Pp. 102. ISBN 978-8-41568-555-5.

Beginning with a suggestive title and a correspondingly evocative illustration on the front cover of a man dressed in medieval garb holding a pair of eggs just below his waist, Guerrier and Sánchez capture the reader’s attention and generate a considerable amount of curiosity while at the same time motivating the reader to delve deeper into the text. Simply put, Con dos huevos is an illustrated glossary of forty-five Spanish idioms used in contemporary Spain and their equivalent literal translations in English and French. On one page, Guerrier, the author, briefly explains the meaning and origin of each idiom in Spanish, English, and French. On the opposite page, the illustrator, Sánchez, displays the literal meanings of each popular expression graphically. The idioms are categorized into eight distinct topics, from anatomy to animals and food, from household chores to the profane, scatology, and sex. The final category, cajón de sastre, or hodgepodge, serves as a catch-all for several other idioms.

Guerrier’s interest in writing this book stems from the acute mismatch between her prior studies of Spanish philology at the Sorbonne and her daily interactions with Spaniards after she moved to Spain. Her formal academic training did not include colloquial language commonly used in modern-day Spain, and hence she often found herself confused and unable to understand the figurative meaning of numerous popular expressions. Guerrier and Sánchez address polysemy, the concept that a word may have more than one meaning in a direct, yet spirited way. The literal translations of the idioms into English and French, and the accompanying sketch opposite the text are designed to playfully draw the reader in. Once accomplished, the author provides brief explanations of the expressions or historical descriptions of their origin.

In one example, Guerrier presents the expression montar un pollo, to make a scene. The word pollo is derived from poyo, a small stone bench found at the entrance to many village houses even today. The term poyo, derived from the Latin podium, refers to the pedestal used in the nineteenth-century by speakers in village squares when addressing the townspeople. History tells us that these speeches, often controversial, frequently resulted in heated exchanges. The accompanying illustration in Con dos huevos depicts a man holding the instructions for how to assemble a chicken. The pieces, the box they were packaged in, and a screwdriver are scattered about his feet. The image is somewhat reminiscent of an IKEA-esque challenge. Another idiom, que te den morcilla, draws upon the nineteenth-century practice of lacing blood sausage (morcilla), with the poison strychnine to kill wild dogs believed to be carriers of rabies. The term has softened significantly over time as it now serves as an expression of disdain for someone or for something rather than a desire that someone die by poisoning. The corresponding illustration portrays a butcher holding a dozen or so sausage links. A third popular expression, cagarse en Dios, a vulgar expression of anger or frustration frequently heard in Spain, combines the irreverent with the obscene. A wide array of euphemisms has been created to soften the impact [End Page 507] of this phrase, including cagarse en diez, cagarse en la mar, and so on. The literal representation of this expression portrays a young man with spiked hair defecating on the Eye of Providence, a symbol representing the omnipresence of God.

Throughout their volume, Guerrier and Sánchez create an engaging weave of word and imagery, of history, language, and culture. Given the literal interpretations portrayed by the illustrations, anyone who leafs through this book will undoubtedly find it amusing. Spanish speakers who grew up hearing and using these colloquial sayings may not be familiar with the etymology of some of the idioms, and hence, may find the historical descriptions of interest. Spanish speakers unfamiliar with these popular expressions will undoubtedly gain insights into diverse cultural and linguistic facets of contemporary Spain. Advanced students of Spanish will find value in this book as it will help them continue...