Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation: Why is Lionel Messi shouting?

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal for the Argentine national soccer team. Of the 78 goals he has converted so far in 2012, 12 came in the albiceleste (white and sky blue) of the Argentine national team, the other 66 and counting with the azulgrana (blue and scarlet) of FC Barcelona .


Dear reader,

Sports headlines around the Spanish-speaking world this week proclaim Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi’s “78 gritos” (literally, 78 shouts) so far this year.

These gritos, it’s understood, are gritos de gol,shouts of celebration after scoring.  With the pair he netted Nov. 11 against Mallorca, the brilliant Argentine surpassed the record set by “O Rei Pelé” (King Pelé, a phrase almost always used in Portuguese), the immortal Brazilian’s 75 goals in calendar year 1958. He added two more against Zaragoza on Nov. 17.

Lio has nine games left to pursue Gerd Müller’s all-time mark of 85 (set in 1972).

Like “head” (of cattle), this grito is what linguists call a metonymy: a thing (a goal) named by one of its parts (the celebration afterwards).

American English can’t quite convey the emotion and frenzy around the special, infrequent occurrence that is a goal in soccer. “Shout” and “celebration” don’t work in this context. Are we doomed to the blandly literal “goal”?

The language comes alive, on the other hand, to name baseball’s home run: “homer”, “dinger”, “tater” (potato), “round tripper”, and “four bagger”, to name just a few.

Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera connects for one of his 44 home runs of the 2012 campaign. The Venezuelan slugger’s epic season earned him the Triple Crown (led league in home runs, RBI, and batting average), something no player had achieved since 1967.

Now that’s a richness, a lushness of vocabulary, that can stand toe-to-toe with Spanish’s lexicon of the goal, with its tanto (score), golazo (brilliant goal), pepa (pip or seed), pepino (cucumber), pepinillo (pickle), and on and on. And let’s not forget grito!¡Buenas palabras!


Copyright ©2012 Pablo J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.

This essay was originally written for the 25 Nov. 2012 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee), as part of the weekly column “Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation” along with its Spanish-language version.



About Pablo Julián Davis
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, ATA Certified Translator (Engl>Span) and Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (EnglSpan), offers world-class Spanish/English language services including translation, interpreting, copywriting, and editing in both languages. His specialties are legal, business, medical, and humanities/education; he has wide experience in other fields as well. Also offered: interactive and transformative cultural-awareness training for companies, non-profits, communities, government agencies, institutions of faith, and other audiences. (See just a small sampling of testimonials from happy and satisfied clients: The ability to move effectively from language to language - which necessarily also means moving between cultures - has likely never been at a greater premium than it is in today's world. That ability is what we mean by Interfluency TM.

One Response to Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation: Why is Lionel Messi shouting?

  1. Pingback: Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción: Los 78 gritos de Lionel Messi « Interfluency: Translation+Culture

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