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There is an expression in Spanish to denote something that is absurd or unexpected. Usually it can be the maximum expression of expertise and talent.

I wondered about this mainly because in Spanish (In Colombia) at least we have some common jokes but I wondered how would you say that in English.

Joke 1:

¿Cuál es el colmo de un boxeador? .. .. Sacarse un moco con el guante.

Joke 2:

¿Cuál es el colmo de un futbolista? .. .. .. Meter un gol y fallarlo en el replay.

Google translate for Joke 2:

What is the height of a player? .. .. .. And failing to score a goal in the replay.

Which really has no sense whatsoever. Can someone explain a way to say this properly?

This is the definition of colmo in rae.

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Is this on-topic? It sounds more like an EL&U type of question, than a SL&U question. Unless your real question is "What does colmo mean?" – Flimzy Nov 24 '11 at 7:12
The question is about translating a spanish expression to english. How can this be off-topic?? Being a Spanish expression I don't really see it in EL&U. Unless there is another reason? Meta Topic – Joze Nov 24 '11 at 7:16
To me, translating X to Y makes sense on Y's site. Which means "«any language» to Spanish" fits here. And "«any language» to English" fits on EL&U. Also, there are already many questions on EL&U that fit that pattern. – Flimzy Nov 24 '11 at 7:22
I browsed EL&U and found the following: META. That means the question would most likely be redirected here since part of it is asked in spanish. (And I don't see a way to ask it completely in english without spanish examples to clarify what I am asking) The fact that there are many questions on EL&U in that format doesn't mean they are accepted. There are list questions in SO. Doesn't mean they are normally allowed. – Joze Nov 24 '11 at 7:23
I think for this question to be accepted on EL&U, a translation would have to be provided (perhaps a literal translation, or at least a Google Translate attempt)... then the EL&U folks would try to tackle how to make it more natural. (That seems to be the form most of the translation questions have taken.) – Flimzy Nov 24 '11 at 7:26
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'm not a native speaker, but I think you could use the idiom:

To be the last/final straw

So it could be:

What is the last straw for a boxer?

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Using "last straw" could work, but "last straw" usually implies that the person has experienced a multitude of problems already, and the last straw is the the hardship/annoyance that really pushes the person over the edge. From the translation of the jokes, I don't really see this implied. – Aprendedor Jun 3 '15 at 22:34

For those two particular jokes I would use the form, "What's the highlight of a boxer's career?"

I can't think of an equivalent that one would apply to a person himself rather than his career, though.

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In this case I would go with pinnacle, summit, apex, or zenith rather than highlight. Now that I answer it I think it might be good for E L & U ... – hippietrail Nov 27 '11 at 6:17
Those work too, but I think "highlight" is still fine (though it is indeed less literal). – Kef Schecter Nov 27 '11 at 16:50
I think there's a slight difference in meaning too between highlight vs the others though I can't find the words to express it and I don't know which would be closer to this use of colmo which I'm not familiar with. – hippietrail Nov 27 '11 at 18:17

I know this is old, but it doesn't hurt to help: I am a native Spanish speaker and I've been fiddling with the language a little bit to find that the best translations would be "absurd" or, taking the word "combler" from the French language (that means filling, height or "colmo").

Personally, as everyday people use French words in the English language it'd be ok to use it, right?

So, in the end, it'd look like such:

What's the comble of a gardener? To have a daughter named Daisy and the other one Petunia.

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But you can't just arbitrarily borrow words from other languages unless they're specialized terms... – Aprendedor Jul 18 '15 at 22:24

Although this word has translation in Spanish, I think this word:


can be used for what you are trying to express.

For example:

What is the irony of a boxer?

I think "colmo" is one of the many word that does not have a direct translation in English, and this is why you need to find a word close to the meaning.


I looked the definition of irony on Google, and here is what I found:

The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

After reading the last part of the definition, I thin that this word fits what you are looking for.

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what's the worst about being a boxer?

poking your nose with the gloves...

I am a native Spanish speaker, and this was a way that I could find in English to still have some sense and some humour on it.

I've never heard the "last straw" in a sentence, so I would give my opinion in that, since "colmo", you are referring as something bad about it.

At least we use "colmo" like that in México.

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"What is" implies something that actually happens, so I don't think it's a good translation. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Apr 10 '14 at 15:49
well, certanly its not good trying to poke your nose with gloves, that's the joke – Poncho Apr 10 '14 at 15:51
No. What I mean is that "colmo" jokes expect and imply that the answer will not make sense. "What's the worst about being a boxer?" doesn't imply nonsense. The other person could well answer "The brain damage". – Adriano Varoli Piazza Apr 10 '14 at 17:23
Oh, I got it, certainly It does not imply nonsense, It could be used then as "You know what could be weird about being a boxer?--poking your nose with the gloves ", Not sure, but kinda does the job about being a weird question, I think... – Poncho Apr 11 '14 at 19:58

I would translate it into 'Pet Peeve'. It makes more sense to me that way.

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but a Pet Peeve is something that is more annoying to you than to the regular person. "El colmo" is really annoying to everyone. – Diego Jun 1 '15 at 19:08
"El colmo" doesn't even relate to annoying in my opinion. "last straw" is more to the point. – Joze Jun 2 '15 at 13:24

I saw a translation to "el colmo of..." long time ago. But you must have deep knowledge of the language. The "combler" is the closest you got and it is a good one. In fact, it is the one, but as the next entry says, "you cannot just borrow words and fit them into another language." The rest of the answers are not even close.

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Do you have any sources for your claims? – Joze Jul 21 '15 at 7:41

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