I think this sentence,"Es el gato un mínimo tigre de salón" is from Neruda. The sentence has been used by Garcia Marquez as follows:

El incidente me conmocionó tanto, que escribí una nota para el domingo con un título usurpado a Neruda: Es el gato un mínimo tigre de salón? (Memorias de mis putas tristes, Garcia Marquez)

I don't get what he means by "mini-tiger from salon". Nonetheless, to my surprise, Google translates this sentence as: "Is the cat a minimum living tiger?" I am totally lost here!

  • 4
    This reminds me about the sentence "God created the cat so that man could caress the tiger". I do not know the context in which the text mentions this (it would be a good addition to the question), but in general cats always have this duality: little animals at home but related to savage, dangerous felines.
    – fedorqui
    Jan 30, 2017 at 11:40

3 Answers 3


When something is de salón, it means that the thing is designed to be placed in the living room (salón).

Thus, you have:

Mesa de salón (table designed specifically to be used in the living room).
Lámpara de salón (lamp designed specifically to be used in the living room).

And so we arrive to:

Tigre de salón (tiger designed specifically to be placed in the living room).

As Krauss said, the use of "minimum" is just a poetic license, giving the sense of the small tiger ever created.


In fact, Neruda is using this sentence in a poem entitled "Oda al gato". So, the closest translation would be:

Small tiger of the hall

Though the cat is a small animal, is as worthy as a tiger. So why did he used mínimo instead of another word? I believe because of rhythmic beauty.

Oh pequeño
emperador sin orbe,
conquistador sin patria,
mínimo tigre de salón, nupcial
sultán del cielo
de las tejas eróticas,
el viento del amor
en la intemperie
cuando pasas
y posas
cuatro pies delicados
en el suelo,
de todo lo terrestre,
porque todo
es inmundo
para el inmaculado pie del gato. (frag.)

  • 1
    Well, it's not only a rhyme issue, both tiger and cat are felines, a cat is smaller than a tiger, you can usually find domestic cats in halls, so, yeah, a small hall's tiger.
    – Nox
    Jan 30, 2017 at 11:20
  • 2
    You could translate mínimo in this case in English as the "least of" or "lesser", cf. Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me", which the typical translation in Spanish tends to use "más pequeño" but obviously doesn't relate to physical size. Jan 30, 2017 at 11:55
  • Well, as Carlos said, in fact it IS related to physical size. Again, both are felines, and cats are smaller than tigers, so you could see a cat as a little tiger. Also, as noted by Fedorqui in the question comments, cats are one of the most savage domestic animals, much more savage than dogs f.i. which are so much domesticated and, even as wolves, are much more sociable in the sense that many felines live alone or almost alone, but almost all canines live in herds (is "herd" the correct word for canines?). So, the smaller (minimum) tiger, living in a hall.
    – Nox
    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:12
  • @Nox I think English speaking dogs, wolves, and so live in packs.
    – mdewey
    Jan 30, 2017 at 17:21

The two current answers are good, but I feel something is missing1

As Carlos Alejo points, "de salón" means that it is to put into the living room. The living room is (and specially more in the old times) the room where a family would put its most delicate and expensive wares and stuff, for everyone visiting them to see. So this brings two additional ideas:

  • the cat is pretty, precious.

  • the cat is a domesticated being; you would not put a wild animal in your living room, as it was a risk for all your other precious stuff. This one idea contrasts with the image of the tiger.

Also, as for Krauss answer, I can not help thinking that with "mínimo" the author also plays with the "minino" word, which is a familiar term for "cat". Even if the only correct interpretation is that of Krauss answer, everytime I read the word "mínimo", in my mind it doubles the "cat" reference.

1Not surprising, as poems and other lyric works are often way more difficult to fully interpret than other works and there is a very important subjective component.

  • You're right. The word minino also crossed my mind when I first saw the sentence. Perhaps Neruda is trying to play with our minds. In my favor, I would say I wasn't daring to fully interpret the poem but trying to invite others to provide their own interpretation.
    – Krauss
    Jan 30, 2017 at 20:19

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