Arrested Development #9
Context: Lucille is mad at Michael for not paying enough attention to his brother, Buster.
Original English: And I know he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s sensitive, Michael.
Spanish Translation: Sé que no es muy listo, pero es sensible.
ISSUE #1: LISTO
Obviously, the “sharpest knife in the drawer” is an expression--it’s not literal.
Sometimes expressions like this are exactly the same in Spanish, and sometimes they’re not.
The safest way to translate is to think of the most literal way to say what you want to say, then say it like that =)
Sharpest knife in the drawer = smart, clever, etc.
That’s why they went with “listo”.
“Listo” really made an impression on me in the beginning.
It means “smart” but maybe with a little more feeling of “clever” than “intelligent”?
But “listo” also means “ready”!
And when you’re “clever”--you’re “ready”!
Ready for the situation (clever at handling things, solutions)!
Ready with the joke (clever with words)!
I can’t say for sure, but it’s quite possible ‘Words Don’t Mean Words’ was born with “listo”.
ISSUE #2: SENSITIVE = SENSIBLE
More ‘Words Don’t Mean Words’!
When we say a person is “sensitive” in English, they could say a few different things in Spanish.
Here they went with “sensible”. A common choice. Perhaps the most common.
If you think about it, when we say somebody is “sensible” in English, we’re really saying “that person makes good decisions”.
And how do we make good decisions? By being perceptive of our surroundings! By being SENSITIVE to what’s happening around us!
Bottom line, “sensitive” and “sensible” have the same central, core meaning.
Our society decided to use “sensitive” mainly for emotions I guess? And we save “sensible” more for intellect, and analytical skills?
Spanish-speaking societies went another route.