The divine prohibition of bullfighting in English and Cagancho in Almagro: whatever won’t be, won’t be

Programmes are rarely distributed at bullfights, and are never translated into English. There is an excellent reason for this, recounted over at La Aldea del Tauro in an interesting piece on the Taurine Bibliophiles of America (via Salmonetes no nos quedan):

It’s said that while negotiating with Cagancho the possibility of him filming a movie the representatives of the American company talking to him asked him if he spoke English. The response of the bullfighter from Evangelista Street was more or less the following: God forbid!

According to the Ministry of Culture, soon to be responsible for subsidising bullfighting (the quid pro quo is rumoured to be ballet’s departure for Interior), Joaquín Rodríguez Ortega, “Cagancho”, was born in 1703, died at the age of 191 in 1894, but was still going strong in Mexico in the 1940s. Perhaps not, but the view of many Spanish historians that references and research constitute an infringement upon their right to plagiarise and invent makes it quite difficult to establish in the time available this morning exactly what this Triana gypsy Muhammad Ali of beef butchery got up to as man or zombie. So we find that the expression “quedar como Cagancho en Almagro” or “quedar peor que Cagancho en Almagro”, used to designate spectacular public failure, has its origins in one (1) bullfight in the miniscule city of Almagro in Ciudad Real held variously in 1927, 1932, and 1942.

In the last version he is absent because he has tickets for a Betis match, but other storytellers recount a disastrous evening crowned by the appearance of a well-fed Kodiak bear in place of the sixth bull and the almost simultaneous exit of Cagancho, pursued by a rancorous crowd raining bottles and snot. The Guardia Civil accompany him to the comparative safety of the Ayuntamiento and stand guard while he lights up and sighs to a passing blogger, “That’s life. I wanted to look good, but whatever won’t be, won’t be.”

In bullfighting, as in translation, sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.

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Last updated 11/07/2019

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Barcelona (1399):

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Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

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Translation (788):


  1. Methinks it's a matter of diversification. Which connotes a high degree of modern thinking now lost in the times that are running.

  2. By not reading your blog, Col! Not.

    I guess I'm lucky to no longer work for a bureaucracy masquerading as a business, although the pay isn't quite as good.

  3. Must buy you a drink when I next get oop north. As a matter of interest, does your apparently limitless number of languages include Dutch?

  4. Oh dear, I always think of *you* as being oop there, probably because it rains all the time.

    I represented Holland once at a Swedish folk festival! The hosts didn't buy me a drink, although they all walked around with bottles in their jackets.

  5. BTW – One of my favourite fucked translations is "Mussels to the seaman's blouse". Followed closely by "Fondle of tit cheese", a big favourite here in Galicia.

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