Language pet peeve -- mano a mano in Spanish

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This is a phrase I hear from time to time from people who obviously don't know what it means. These people mistakenly believe it means "man to man" as in a confrontation between two men. The direct translation is "hand to hand," and describes close-quarters combat using swords or the like. The Spanish word mano is derived from the Latin word manus (hand), from which we get in English manual, manuscript, manufacture, and others.

The phrase is sometimes written or spoken erroneously as "mano y mano," which translates to "hand and hand," a completely different meaning than what these speakers usually intend.
 

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  • #2
phinds
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This is a phrase I hear from time to time from people who obviously don't know what it means.
Language evolves. Sure, we who use it don't know what it means in its original form, just what it has evolved to mean in our language. I have other examples of such things that are closer to home and more disturbing to me, but I recognize that my dislike of such things has no effect on the evolution of language.

For example, take the sentence "Hopefully the desk will arrive on Friday" or even worse, "Hopefully, the desk will arrive on Friday". What this says, grammatically, is that the desk will arrive on Friday and when it does it will be hopeful, although it's not specified what the desk will be hopeful about.

Over my lifetime, however, it has come to be accepted that the sentence simply means that the speaker has hope that the desk will arrive on Friday.

A statement I once heard and can't remember exactly, covers your particular case well. It is this: many languages borrow here and there from other languages but English chases other languages down an alley and mugs them for all they are worth.
 
  • #3
DS2C
Reminds me of when my grandma would order a pintos and cheese from Taco Bell, but she'd ask for "pintos and beans".
 
  • #4
TeethWhitener
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Also of note: frijoles refritos, what we call "refried beans," actually only means "fried beans" in Spanish (refritos simply means "well-fried," not "re-fried").
And again: habanero, often mispronounced in English as ha-ban-ye-ro, is actually pronounced without the tilde over the n (ha-ba-ne-ro). It's an example of hyperforeignism: when we import words from other languages and impose our own (incorrect) rules about their meanings and pronunciations. (Side note: To properly remember this, "habanero" simply means "from Havana," and you don't pronounce Havana "ha-van-ya," do you?) Same thing with the word "forte," which technically is only pronounced "fort-ay" when applied to music (having been derived from Italian "loud"). Otherwise, it's derived from French ("strong"), and is properly pronounced "fort."
 
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Reminds me of when my grandma would order a pintos and cheese from Taco Bell, but she'd ask for "pintos and beans".
Maybe she wanted horsemeat (from a pinto horse) with her beans.

Same thing with the word "forte," which technically is only pronounced "fort-ay" when applied to music (having been derived from Italian "loud"). Otherwise, it's derived from French ("strong"), and is properly pronounced "fort."
And "fort" (as in a walled castle) in French is pronounced "for".
 
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phinds
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And "fort" (as in a walled castle) in French is pronounced "for".
Damned French. Always wasting perfectly good letters :smile:
 
  • #7
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This is a phrase I hear from time to time from people who obviously don't know what it means. These people mistakenly believe it means "man to man" as in a confrontation between two men. The direct translation is "hand to hand," and describes close-quarters combat using swords or the like. The Spanish word mano is derived from the Latin word manus (hand), from which we get in English manual, manuscript, manufacture, and others.

The phrase is sometimes written or spoken erroneously as "mano y mano," which translates to "hand and hand," a completely different meaning than what these speakers usually intend.
In italian we often use the expression "mano a mano".
It's a sort of "little by little" in english.
 

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