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In English, there are a lot of ways to express that someone or something is standard and not particularly special or extraordinary. For example:

  • Ordinary people like you and me can sometimes accomplish extraordinary things.
  • I bought a run-of-the-mill guitar; I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something special.
  • He's just an average Joe.
  • How did a regular guy like him wind up being a movie star?

What options are there in Spanish for translating this concept (especially the word "ordinary")?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Ordinary people like you and me can sometimes accomplish extraordinary things.

La gente corriente como tú y yo a veces pueden hacer cosas extraordinarias

The closest "ordinary people" translation I can think of is "gente corriente". You could also say "gente normal", "gente de la calle" (lit. street people), "los ciudadanos de a pie" (lit. walking citizens), "el pueblo" (the people).

I bought a run-of-the-mill guitar; I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something special.

Me compré una guitarra normalita... (that's probably pretty Spain-centric and not very formal)

You could also say "una guitarra corriente", but it isn't very natural sounding. There's also "una guitarra del montón" (lit. a guitar from the heap, i.e. a random one from a bunch of guitars), but I wouldn't really use it for a guitar.

He's just an average Joe.

Es un tipo de la calle.

There's "es un Don Nadie", but that's more like "he's a Nobody"; or "Es un cualquiera"... both are slightly derogatory.

How did a regular guy like him wind up being a movie star?

¿Como un tío normal como él acabó siendo una estrella de cine?

Or "tipo corriente", "tío de la calle"... I consider "guy" to be a bit slang-y, so I'd use "tío" (Spain's "dude", lit. uncle).

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Though you could use any adjective with a meaning close to "ordinary", there's an expression very used at least in Spain which is

Normal y corriente

We use that when we say that something doesn't have anything in special. While you could use "normal"or "corriente" as adjectives for that (they mean "common", "ordinary"). It's usually hearing using both and in that order (it emphasizes), for example:

Es un chico normal y corriente.

Me he comprado una guitarra normal y corriente; No quería gastarme mucho dinero.

La gente normal y corriente no piensa en eso.

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I would say you would normally refer to this person as :

"Un hombre cualquiera" ( A man like any other)

"Cualquiera" indicates that it could be him or anyone else and there is no distinction, making him ordinary.

"Cómo pudo un hombre cualquiera como el volverse una estrella de cine?" (How did a regular guy like him wind up bring a movie star)

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Can't "cualquiera" used in this way be considered derogatory? –  jrdioko Dec 21 '11 at 19:06
    
It can. It would depend on the context of the sentence. You can call someone "un cualquiera" in which case this becomes more like " a nobody". –  Raul Marengo Dec 21 '11 at 21:01
    
Connotations can vary widely across regions, as well as denotations. To whom are you speaking? (e.g. Argentina, Mexico, Spain, etc.) –  Ethan Furman Dec 21 '11 at 21:02
    
Likely. I am Argentine and so this is perfectly acceptable. See the movie "Un hombre cualquiera" filmaffinity.com/es/film716207.html about a man who pretends to have achieved fame and money in front of the town he was born in. –  Raul Marengo Dec 21 '11 at 21:06
    
From the other answers I would also favour the use of "un hombre corriente" (a common man) but I would personally always use "un hombre cualquiera". –  Raul Marengo Dec 21 '11 at 21:09
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