Home Invasions with Pork Legs!!!

“She wanted more, more slang, more figures of speech, the bee’s knees, the cats pajamas, horse of a different color, dog-tired, she wanted to talk like she was born here, like she never came from anywhere else”
― Jonathan Safran Foer

I am not a fluent conversationalist in Spanish, but I consider myself to be a fluent listener. When local slang words or colloquialisms trip me up while listening or reading Spanish, I become curious about their origins. It is kind of like one of our colloquialisms in the states; Why do we call the box in the dashboard of our cars a glove compartment?

This morning in La Prensa, there was an article about home invasions in Granada. I was so tickled I posted the conversation on Facebook.


I pictured four juvenile delinquents, each with the leg bone of a pig, ramming the doors of the residents of Granada, or better yet, using a live pig to smash down the door. The comments were even more hysterical:

1. Are they briskets or tender?
2. We need stricter laws on pork leg possessions.
3. They are really using pork legs. They are desperados in the literal translation. I suggest incorporating this into a blog post. BTW: pork leg in Italian is stincho (pronounced stinko). I tried to explain the amusing irony once and it went badly.
4. A lot of delicious looking recipes come up if you google patas de chancho
5. One of my friends who lives in Granada asked if I knew the area where the break-ins occurred. I responded, “it is the area where many teachers live. The article said they wait for them to leave for work and then break into the houses with pork legs.”

After a funny discussion on Facebook we agreed that a pata de chancho is a crow bar.

1. It is funny to me it is a tool that we called pata de chancho but I don’t know If exist that Word in English? It is metal very strong the masson and the blacksmith use it to bend iron
2. To which someone responded, “When you think about it, “Crow bar” might sound strange to non-English speakers. Can they order flor de caña at a Crow bar?
3. My Spanish teacher says it’s a colloquialism for herramienta: a tool used in construction, made of iron (hierro), and drew a picture of a crowbar.

And how did this phrase originate?

Jim suggested, “Hmmm. My hometown of Salisbury, CT, was famous (Google “Arsenal of the Revolution”) during our civil war for its iron production. The molten iron was called “pig iron,” as it poured out of the ovens into molds of sand that sorta resembled a nursing sow and her piglets. Once cooled, the bars/piglets could be handled.”

For that matter, what is the etymology of the word crow bar? This from Snopes rated FALSE.
screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-12-10-52-pmWell, that’s my entertainment for a rainy day in Nicaragua! Thanks, Jim, for suggesting that I write a blog post about a pata de chancho.

What other colloquialisms do you find strange or wonder about the origin of the word or phrase? 


20 thoughts on “Home Invasions with Pork Legs!!!

  1. Right now there are two men on “my” roof (rented casita) doing some repairs to stop the leak in my bedroom ceiling. Imagine my delight when one of them climbed back up the ladder holding a “pata de chancho”!!! And no, my Spanish isn’t up to explaining to him what I thought was so funny!

  2. We too have always been fascinated by words and idioms. The other day I got some supplements at a natural food store and read that one of the ingredients was, “una de gato” (there should be a tilde over the n). As you probably know that means, “cat’s fingernail”. I had visions of some former Nazis in Argentina working over poor kittens… Anyway I looked it up and found that it is a leaf taken from a plant having thorns that curve like cat’s claws.

    Words are so fun and even more so when you add the cultural and linguistic differences associated with living in a foreign country. Have a great day!

  3. My first memorable experience with a crowbar comes from when building a log and stone house in West Cornwall, Conn. back around 1983. The bar, wedged too tightly to extract from where it’s point had stuck itself between a post and a log, was abandoned for too long, became unstuck, fell, and hit me in the noggin — fortunately not with either of its flat points — necessitating stitches.

    I later inherited from a stone mason associate what we called “the big bar,” a very long, extremely thick and heavy, bar that was once used by John Henry types to raise lengths of iron railway or pry up iron spikes. It had an impressive bend on it and we marveled at how anyone could have been so strong as to put the bend to it. Eventually, I gifted it to another, bigger, stone mason and used a smaller straight bar — a 5′ iron bar with a flat business end to it that we used to lever heavy stones around the work site or to assist in digging post holes.

    There are probably eight or ten bars in my tool shed back home in Salisbury, including crowbars of various sizes, several flat bars (aka wonder bars) and my favorite, the “cats paw.”

    • Now, I want to know if you lived in the log and stone house where the crowbar was stuck? Were you pleasantly reading a book and the crowbar fell and hit you on the head? Haha
      I’ve certainly learned a lot about crow bars from your conversation, Jim. Thanks.

      • The homeowner Matt Collins was a bit of an odd bird, as I’m sure he’d agree. He bought land on a very steep slope, but with several “New England stone walls” and tall, straight fir trees. He had several used over-sized Army pickup trucks bought at auction.
        No one had much experience, except what we learned on the job.
        Workers came and went, especially — I among them, as the snow began to fall. We picked and chose quality stones and tossed them off the wall. Later, Matt came round with the truck and we loaded them. And then unloaded them by hand, since the truck wasn’t a dumper. Eventually we carried them up ladders or in buckets.
        Matt had built a sort of one-man saw mill, with a rail-mounted chainsaw that road along the rails, cutting a flat side, sometimes two, the length of a log. He had a very large bucket loader with long-armed backhoe — purchased at another auction — and used that to lift the very long logs from a pile into the mill, then up onto the roof.
        It is a simple, rectangular house, with gable ends of stone and a fireplace and chimney encased in one of those. By the time time I arrived on the job, the masons were working on the gable slopes. Matt was busy with the logs. W masons were self-training on mixing the “mud” and choosing the stones. It was great fun, and a relaxed, mostly unsupervised, work atmosphere. Need I say that it was also rather treacherous?
        The masons designed 90-degree “shelves” in the slopes at intervals to receive one end of a 40-foot log, and up the slope the roof “trusses,” such as they were, went as shelves were fashioned in the gables and logs became ready to position. Sometimes the logs were chubby on one gable end and the other end thinner, so we accommodated as needed. But they were always very long and frighteningly heavy, dangling from the back hoe, attached so as they might be lifted up as level as possible.

        For the center of the house Matt was cutting shorter, and shorter, logs for a center wall that was hoped to more or less match the stone gable ends at their intervals. It was the very first and largest in girth of the logs that after being put in place needed to be rolled a little. This caused the straight end of the crowbar to be wedged. We left it there. Some time later Matt was untying the log and it shifted while I was underneath and it clobbered me in the forehead. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I was dazed and bleeding. Off we went to the emergency room.

        We masons all knew that when the snow got heavy we would be out of work. Some months later, Randy Moore, a one-wheelbarrow, experienced stone mason I had met at volleyball came to meet me at Matt’s log and stone house.

        Randy later told me that he “had” to hire me to just get me away from Matt Collins’ project, so I could learn to be a mason. A “real mason.” That winter temperatures plunged occasionally to the negative 20s, and it was of course my job to clean every bit of “mud” from the wheelbarrow every afternoon. I look back on all this rather fondly.

  4. I believe the glove compartment of a car is so named because drivers of early cars wore driving gloves and goggles, and so needed a place to stow these items once once they arrived at their destination. I recall an illustration in an old children’s book of just such a driver. They also bundled up in coats because the early cars didn’t have roofs (or is that “rooves”?)

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