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In García Márquez's "Memories of My Melancholy Whores", in some point Rosa Cabarcas, while talking to the Maestro, says " Ay, maestro, perdóname la vida". The English translation by Edith Grossman says "Ay Maestro, excuse me for living". I don't find this meaningful in any sense. Is it an idiom in Spanish? Part of the paragraph is quoted below for more information:

Rosa rebuscó en su cajón de sastre y destapó una latita de una pomada verde que olía a linimento de árnica. Le dices a la niña que te la unte con su dedito así, moviendo el índice con una elocuencia procaz. Le repliqué que a Dios gracias todavía era capaz de defenderme sin unos guajiros. Ella se burló: Ay, maestro, perdóname la vida.

  • (García Márquez, Memoria de mis putas tristes, p. 12)
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It should be translated as "spare my life" or "just please don't kill me" and it is a very common expression used when someone comes back to you with a rude answer and you were only trying to help.

In this case Rosa is telling him to ask the kid to help him with the medicine. He replies rudely saying he does not need any help from some "guajiros", then comes the "oops, hold your horses, tone it down a notch and don't kill me, I'm only trying to help".

In some cases this expression is also similar to the English expression "I'm only the messenger" or "don't kill the messenger"

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    Apart from correctness, this has much in common with a correct answer. – Michael Wolf Mar 21 '16 at 22:55
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The (seemingly) incorrect translation isn't so bad when you consider the (possibly regional) English response in a similar situation; "Pardon me for breathing!" / "Excuse me for living!".

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    Yes, this is far better than the accepted answer in that it is actually correct. In some cases, although probably not in this one, I think a translator could even get away with "excuuuuse me!" – Michael Wolf Mar 21 '16 at 22:54
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It means “spare my life”. I think Edith Grossman mistranslated that.

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    Then, what is the meaning of "spare my life" in this context? – codezombie Mar 15 '16 at 15:16
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    She is mockingly asking for forgiveness, since the man rudely rejected her advice. – angus Mar 15 '16 at 16:39
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I´m Mexican and since we use this idiom as an ironic or mocking way we are calling other person a king or something almighty , because he refuse or dispraises our opinion or our behavior or conduct, we as a manner of counteracting we say "perdóname la vida" that literally means spare my life (that one sentenced to death would say meaning please don´t kill me), sometimes is used in a sort of kindly or friendly way.

As I said in the beginning since I'm Spanish speaker I was looking up a translation or a similar to say "perdonar la vida" (to spare the life) in the case of the fish that begged Bart Simpson not to be killed, in this case I think the most accurate is "spare my life ".

But in the case of the phrase we are commenting, this phrase is used as idiom meaning just "spare my life" but if you the English native speaker use the idiom "just please don't kill me" that would be the closest equivalent in order to signify "Pardon me for breathing!"(or living).

We also have other expression that is "perdóname por vivir" where the literal translation would be "Excuse me for living!", and believe me, some people don´t distinguish between both expressions and use one instead of another when this second one is used just when someone don´t want your presence or allude you are not welcome e.g. a couple of spouses about to divorce when he or she arrive back form the work to the house and one find the slacks on the floor and then say don't you know where is the bin for laundry or one say to the other why do you always leave the tooth paste uncapped; the other would say Perdóname por vivir ! this could be used even when you are not divorcing."

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