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I'm re-reading La Vida Inútil de Pito Pérez, this time making extra effort to understand the all the words and grammar, and I'm stumped in the second paragraph already, which is describing his clothing. This is the sentence with which I am struggling:

Un viejo "carrete" de paja nimbaba de oro la cabeza de Pito Pérez.

My understanding of the sentence is:

An old "spool" of straw circled (of gold) the head of Pito Pérez.

I don't understand the placement of the prepositional phrase de oro. Is this grammatical? I suspect it is; how and why is it grammatical?

It seems to me it should be something more like:

Un viejo "carrete" de paja oro nimbaba la cabeza de Pito Pérez.

Help me understand this syntax.

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Your sentence is wrong and meaningless. The correct one is "Un viejo "carrete" de paja nimbaba de oro la cabeza de Pito Pérez". "Nimbaba" is the past of "nimbar", something like "to paint a halo". Not a very common word BTW –  belisarius Jun 3 '13 at 3:58
    
@belisarius: Thank you for the catch; that answers part of my question (it's obvious that's the verb now). I have updated the question accordingly. –  Flimzy Jun 3 '13 at 4:03
    
Think of this sentence (the structure is the same): "Las flores pintaban de sangre la copa del árbol" –  belisarius Jun 3 '13 at 4:06
    
@belisarius: I don't understand the structure of that sentence, either. –  Flimzy Jun 3 '13 at 4:16
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

According to RAE, the verb nimbar means:

Rodear de nimbo o aureola una figura o imagen.

That's to say, as pointed out in the comments, somthing like "to surround a figure with a halo".

So, in your sentence "de oro" is used to say that the halo is of golden colour. Namely, "de oro" doesn't modify neither the "carrete" nor the "paja", but the halo that is drawn arround Pito's head.

So, your translation would be something like:

An old "spool" of straw encircled the head of Pito Pérez with a gold halo.

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"carrete" is a type of hat google.com/search?q=carrete+sombrero –  belisarius Jun 3 '13 at 13:42
    
So the propositional phrase is used as an adverb. That makes sense now. –  Flimzy Jun 3 '13 at 15:53
    
I'm a little confused. I read "de paja oro" as "of gold straw" (as in the straw itself is gold). Why does "de oro" modify "nimbaba" instead of "paja"? –  WendiKidd Jun 26 '13 at 3:34
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