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"During his six years working for St Helens Council Education Department, Paul was, among other things, our in-house "languages expert", doing the translating, interpreting and liaison with our twin towns in Chalon-Sur-Saône, France, Stuttgart, Germany and El Prat de Llobregat, Spain. His participation has enabled us to maintain strong links with all three towns, particularly in the field of education, where he set up and managed a very successful work experience programme for sixth formers"
Brian Mainwaring, Director of Education, St Helens Council, August 1995

.. de Rodríguez? PDF
Monday, 25 January 2010 00:00
 

altFor the next two weeks, estoy de Rodríguez. This widely-used Spanish expression refers to a man who has temporarily been left at home on his own working while his wife and kids have gone away, usually on holiday.

It’s one of those phrases that’s tricky to translate.  According to the Real Academia Española “de Rodríguez”  is a colloquial expression  for an “Hombre casado que se queda trabajando mientras su familia está fuera, normalmente de veraneo. Ejemplo: Anda, está, se queda de Rodríguez” (a married man who stays behind working while his family is away, usually on their summer holiday. eg “Hey, he is here, he’s de Rodríguez!”), but the RAE offers no translation.

The Collins Spanish-English Dictionary, meanwhile, translates it as “to be left on one’s own”, which is a somewhat weak effort, that doesn’t really cover the full sense of the expression. In my experience there is much more of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink connotation to it.  “Footloose and fancy-free” might be closer, or, as Basenjgirl, a pseudonym for a young lady in the USA who posted this on an internet website:  “Lo que decimos en EE.UU.: When the cat's away, the mouse will play!”

Fenixpollo, from Arizona, USA, wryly notes on the same website:  “My wife and children are going on vacation next week.  I'm going to be a bachelor for a week” and is clearly looking forward to it...!

But who was Rodríguez?

According to Cenriquet in Andalucía: “El origen del término está en los últimos años del franquismo, cuando la clase media española comenzó a tomarle el gusto a eso de veranear. Las mujeres y los niños se iban de vacaciones dejando al marido solo en la gran ciudad. Desconozco si ese fenómeno se ha dado o no en otros países.” (This term originates from the last years of General Franco’s rule, when the Spanish middle clases started to go on holiday in the summer.  Wives and children would go on holiday and leave their husbands alone in the big city. I don’t know whether this phenomenon occurred in other countries.)

Is it only used for men? 

If so, is there an equivalent expression for women?  Many say it is men-only, but Laura, a young Spanish lady, thinks things have changed:  “Yo, Laura con novio de vacaciones, ¡¡estoy de Rodriguez!!  BIENNN. Los tiempos han cambiado y ese era un término no utilizado por las mujeres antes, porque la sociedad era hípermachista, pero ahora, yo y algunas amigas lo utilizamos hasta que salga uno para mujeres, que dudo que salga, pero bueno. Yo lo utilizaría!!” (I’m Laura,my boyfriend is away on holiday and I’m de Rodríguez!  OKAY-Y-Y.  Times have changed. This was an expression not used by women previously, because Spanish society was super “macho”, but now, I and some other friends are going to use it until women get an expression of our own, but I doubt that will happen, so ... I would use it!”

Back to the question, who was Rodríguez?  Diquembe from Chile asks:  “mmm...pero ¿por qué de Rodríguez?... ¿por qué no es Fernández, Pérez, etc  etc ....?” (mmm .... but why Rodríguez?  Why not Fernández, Pérez, etc ...?).  It’s tempting to think that it might be Rodríguez because that’s a common surname.  However, the most common surname in Spain is García, so that’s that theory out of the window!

Oh, well, whatever ... Yo ...  estoy de Rodríguez for the next two weeks, but I definitely won’t be the mouse playing while the cat’s away...

©  Paul Whitelock, 25/01/10

 

Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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