Spanish speakers are as prone as English speakers to use euphamisms when referring to something that is uncomfortable to talk about, and “estirar la pata” slips right into this category. So, false friend alert: “Estirar la pata” does not mean “go stretch your legs”; quite on the contrary, it is a subtle way to refer to someone’s death, as in “he kicked the bucket” or, “she bought a one way ticket to a better place”. Listen to the following audio and hear how a couple or friends refer to the recent passing (another euphamism) of a close friend’s grandfather. Then, read on to see the audio script and the translation into English.
“Estirar la pata”
Dos amigos hablando por teléfono.
– Two friends speaking by phone.
Dicen que Juan no asiste a clases porque su abuelo “ha estirado la pata”. – They say that Juan is not in class because his grand-father “ha estirado la pata“.
Querrás decir que su abuelo ha fallecido. – You mean his grandfather has died.
Sí, eso quise decir, falleció y Juan lo quería mucho. – Yes. That’s what I mean; he died, and Juan loved him very much.
Es una lástima. – It is a shame.
Explicación: “Estirar la pata” = fallecer, morir. – Explanation: “Estirar la pata” = To die.
The origin of this expression is obscure, but the most likely explanation is that, quite literally, when humans and animals die, their body goes stiff, and most notably in animals, the legs tend to stretch out.
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