"El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Nino"

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I am El Niño! All other tropical storms must bow before El Niño! ¡Yo soy El Niño! For those of you who don't habla español, "El Niño" is Spanish for... (Beat) "the Niño"!
Chris Farley, as a personification of the El Niño weather system, Saturday Night Live

A comedy trope where characters trying to understand or explain what a foreign word means ultimately conclude that the foreign word means... the foreign word. Related to Shaped Like Itself.

Contrast Translate the Loanwords, Too.

Please note that as far as translation theory goes, this is entirely correct. While many words do often have one-for-one equivalents, words in general have so much linguistic and cultural baggage that no translation, no matter how equivalent in meaning, means exactly the same thing.

Examples of "El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Nino" include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Inverted in a Simpsons Comics story in which Ned Flanders invited the Simpson family to a Mexican fiesta complete with tacos, burritos, sombreros, and a pinata. Homer angrily shot back with "No - and that's Mexican for 'No!' "


Film[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Austin Powers - "He has a little something that the French would call, I don't know what." "Je ne sais quoi" is French for "I don't know what".
    • It's also in the SNL sketch "Theatre Stories", which actually has Mike Myers in it, but it's Steve Martin who says the line. And this was before Austin Powers.
    • In a deleted scene from Goldmember, Dr. Evil claims to be a fan of Das Boot, "Which is German for 'The Boot'".[1]
  • Also from the Department of Redundancy Department page: An MGM short from 1935 called "La Fiesta de Santa Barbara" uses this for humorous effect during one of its narrator's helpful translations: "You may be asking, what is a 'fiesta'? Well, 'fiesta' comes from the Spanish word 'fiesta', which means... 'fiesta'."
  • "Carpe the diem! Seize the... carp!"
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, when Riggs, Murtaugh, and Butters seek to question Uncle Benny at a dentist's office, they give him a dose of laughing gas to make him more complacent, except they give him too much gas, making him way too aloof and carefree to be very helpful. His one clue as to the location of the Hongs is "Yao Mihn Bi". When asked what that means, Uncle Benny explains, "'Yao Mihn Bi' means... 'Yao Mihn Bi'."
  • In National Lampoon's European Vacation, Chevy Chase attempts to test his new hand-held translator by translating "souffle" into French. It responds with "souffle", so he assumes it's broken.
  • Kicking and Screaming: A few of the kids on the soccer team have some questions to ask immigrant player Gian about Italian.

Sam Weston: How do you say pizza in Italian?
Gian Piero: Pizza!
Sam Weston: How do you say "spaghetti"?
Gian Piero: Spaghetti!
Ambrose: Italian's easy.


Literature[edit | hide]

Nanny Ogg: Hotel Nova Cancies. That means New, er, Cancies in foreign.

  • Dave Barry does this from time to time. In one column, he mentions a letter he received from a reader in Rancho Cucamonga, California ("Spanish for 'Cucamonga Ranch' ").


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Trope Namer is Saturday Night Live, as Chris Farley, playing El Niño (the climate pattern) as a Mexican lucha wrestler, introduces himself with the page quote.
  • A Kids in The Hall sketch had Dave Foley as a stereotypical Frenchman talking about how beloved Kevin MacDonald is in France, where is is known as "Le Poopie," which is French for "The Poopie."
  • In an episode of Barney Miller, a recurring Latina character calls Officer Leavitt (who is quite short) "poquito". He finally asks her what it means and she says, "It means macho," and leaves.

Kelso: It's an El Camino. It's Spanish for "The Camino"! [2]

  • This is a bit of a Running Gag in The Daily Show regarding Arabic phrases with the article "Al". For example, in one episode featuring an interview with an Al Jazeera reporter, Jon helpfully informs us that "Al Jazeera" means "The Jazeera" and that hopefully their guest will explain what a "Jazeera" is (he doesn't).[3]
  • Often used as a gag by Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. For instance, if a contestant is from Los Alamos, he'll say it's Spanish for "the Alamos".
  • On Hamish and Andy's Gap Year, before making a trip to El Paso, Hamish helpfully tells us that "El Paso is Spanish for the Paso".
  • On The Golden Girls, Blanche one time introduced herself to a gentleman as, "I'm Blanche Devereaux. That's French for... Blanche Devereaux." Funnily enough, that's a mild real life example, too. "Blanche" means white, but Devereaux could really only be translated as "from Évreux," a town in France.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Inversion: According to their hit song "Me, Myself and I", "De La Soul is from the soul".


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The social networking website Foursquare has a badge called "French for 'The Moines'", given for exploring different places in Des Moines, Idaho.[4]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the episode "Mom and Pop Art" from The Simpsons, Homer attempts to start assembling a barbecue pit in his backyard but accidentally drops all the pieces into the cement.

Homer: English side ruined! Must use French instructions... "Le grille"? What the hell is that?

    • The episode "The Italian Bob" also has this take place:

Sideshow Bob: I hereby swear... a... VENDETTA!
Marge: (searching through an Italian-English dictionary) "Vendetta" means... "Vendetta"!
(all Simpson family members scream)

  • Phineas and Ferb: "As they say in Mexico, 'Dasvidaniya!' Down there, that's two vidaniyas!"-Dr. Doofenschmirtz gets Russian (where dasvidaniya means 'goodbye') mixed with Spanish ("Das" resembles "Dos," the Spanish word for the number two)

By the way, "El Niño" is Spanish for "The boy".

  1. It actually means "the boat".
  2. It means "the road".
  3. It means "the island", referring to the country of Qatar.
  4. derived from "Fort Des Moines", meaning "Fort of the Monks".