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En inglés: I was recently reading a Spanish book for children which had various suggestions for role playing ideas and one was some sort of mock surgical procedure. Not much dialog was suggested, but what surprised me was that the book suggested role players shout out “¡Al ataque!” before starting the surgery. The book then went on with instructions to direct the children to start tickling the patient. Is it realistic for a surgeon in a Spanish speaking country to begin an operation with this phrase?

En español: Hace poco tiempo estuve leyendo un libro español para niños que tenía diversas sugerencias para juegos de roles y una de ellas era la cirugía. Poco diálogo se propuso, pero lo que me sorprendió era que el libro sugirió que los jugadores griten «¡Al ataque!» antes de comenzar la cirugía. El libro luego continuó con instrucciones dirigiendo a los niños a hacerle cosquillas al paciente, pero me hizo pensar si cirujanos usan una palabra o frase especial antes de comenzar la cirugía. ¿Es realista que un cirujano en un país hispanoparlante utilice esta frase para comenzar una operación?

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    @walen si no he entendido mal la pregunta, creo que lo que Lisa quiere saber es si hay alguna frase estándar en español que los cirujanos usen al inicio de las intervenciones quirúrgicas, dado que decir "¡al ataque!" le parece obviamente fuera de lugar. No creo que sea una pregunta off-topic. – Charlie Jan 4 '18 at 8:21
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    @walen sí, pero si te fijas, también dice "Is this really what surgeons say in an operating room?" además de (como tú también apuntas) "if real surgeons [...] use something different, let us know", lo que me hace pensar que igual lo que está buscando no es una traducción de "al ataque" sino una alternativa más realista. – Charlie Jan 4 '18 at 8:38
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    @LisaBeck A softer way of saying that in Spanish would be: ¡Manos a la obra! Al ataque sounds rather aggressive or even funny, and can be used for example by people who are about to start eating a well-served meal. – Gustavson Jan 4 '18 at 10:20
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    "Hands on!" "On charge!" No, los cirujanos no suelen decir eso. Más lógico sería: "comencemos", "adelante", "manos a la obra". – Billeeb Jan 4 '18 at 15:15
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    I can't believe nobody has proposed the sentence "Al tajo". – FGSUZ Apr 23 '19 at 21:25
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Como explica Charlie, no es realista que un cirujano haga una "llamada a las armas" cuando está a punto de ayudar a una persona mediante un tratamiento médico.

Creo que el matiz se debe a lo siguiente: "Al ataque" puede ser usado como una exhortación o frase de aliento, a la par que de declaración de intenciones ("Voy a por ti"). Podría entenderse como otra forma de decir "ánimo" cuando vas a empezar una tarea, pero de forma más agresiva. Podrías decir "Al ataque" o "A la carga" tras poner un plato de guisantes (o helado) delante de tus hijos, y lo que harías sería animarles a comenzar la acción (de comer) con brío.

Explicas que esto es un juego de rol y la cirugía consiste en hacer cosquillas. Posiblemente los traductores (o incluso los creadores del juego) obviaron la parte del "tratamiento médico" y se centraron en un "ataque mediante cosquillas (aunque llamado "cirugía")" al otro jugador. De ahí que elijan una frase tan poco apropiada para el rol del médico. Están pensando solo en la acción de asaltar a alguien y hacerle cosquillas, y no en el rol de los jugadores.

Otras frases que podrían haber usado para declarar que empiezan con la tarea podrían haber sido

  • Manos a la obra

  • Vamos por partes (que tiene un cierto doble sentido cuando la pronuncia un cirujano...)

  • Empecemos con tu "tratamiento"

Pero, de nuevo, supongo que por la naturaleza del juego eligieron "Al ataque" para poner a los jugadores más en situación frente al "asalto mediante cosquillas" que se va a producir.

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  • +1. // ¿Qué es "Voy a por ti"? Sólo conozco "Voy por ti" y "Ahí te voy". – aparente001 Jan 12 '18 at 3:45
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    You get the green checkmark simply because you not only seem to try to get into the mindset of the author who wrote the book, but you also add some good suggestions for what a surgeon might really say before an operation. So, for addressing both those points, and so succinctly, too, it goes to you. – Lisa Beck Feb 16 '18 at 12:09
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No, no es realista. La expresión "¡Al ataque!" yo diría que se usa más en combates, cuando unos cargan contra otros, y ni siquiera en esos ámbitos es realista, se usa más en obras literarias e incluso con un cierto tono desenfadado:

DIOMEDES: ¡Soldados!

(Movilización general.)

DIOMEDES: ¡Oficial, disponga doce artesanos de mar a las órdenes de Aquiles! ¡Preparen la ofensiva!

OFICIAL: ¡Al ataque!

(Tambores y trompetas.)

DIOMEDES: ¡Que no huya ninguna!

Luis de Tavira, "La pasión de Pentesilea", 1991 (México).

Y no te creas que he encontrado muchos casos en el CREA y muchos menos en el CORDE. Por otro lado, buscando una alternativa he preguntado a un par de familiares míos que son médicos (mas no cirujanos), y me han dicho que no tienen constancia de que haya alguna frase estándar que decir en esas situaciones.

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  • Well done effort and interesting, too. Plus, after aparente001's talk of voting to close this question off, you have no idea how grateful I was to see that someone had populated this thread with an answer. I secretly hoped that it would buy me some time to collect the information I needed to be able to offer an answer of my own. Mil gracias. – Lisa Beck Feb 16 '18 at 12:13
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I am not a surgeon and I do not know any (only a couple of ER nurses), so I cannot answer whether surgeons specifically do or do not use "¡Al ataque!" before an intervention. But I can tell you how "¡Al ataque!" is used in general.

"¡Al ataque!" in Spain can be (and is) used colloquially in any situation where a goal-oriented task is to be done:

  • a soccer team before entering the field;
  • a teacher to let their students know they can begin answering the test;
  • a hungry pal about to eat a delicious meal;
  • and yes, even a surgeon before confronting whichever malicious thing exists in your body that needs to be fixed.

I don't think any Spanish patient would find "¡Al ataque!" offensive or inappropriate; however, sensitivity towards this kind of matters in the US is waaaay higher (in my experience), hence my initial suggestion of translating it as a milder "Forward!" when needed.

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+50

I scoured the web for sites and forums that might put me in touch with real live surgeons in an attempt to answer this question. I don't know that I succeeded too well in that, but then again, I don't know how many surgeons would spend their valuable time in a forum open to the general public, so when those efforts dried up rather quickly, I did not attempt to pursue fresher vines of knowledge. Instead, I'll leave you with some comments I was able to collect over on Quora (which is my first go-to site when I have a question that isn't fitting in neatly with the categories here at StackExchange). For those of you who haven't heard, Quora has both an English version and a Spanish one. I posted my question on both and these are some of the answers:

English Quora:

Multiple mentions:
"Time Out"
"Knife"

Other mentions:
"It's showtime."
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more."
"Let's do this!"

Spanish Quora

Well, let's just say that I have nothing yet to add here. The one response just isn't specific enough to add here and the other, well, the other is a question with a twist of humor. If you'd like to see the English answers in full context, visit this link:

Is there a special word or phrase surgeons say (officially or habitually) before operating on a patient?

For the Spanish, visit this one:

¿Hay una palabra o frase específica que dicen (oficialmente o habitualmente) los cirujanos en países donde se habla español antes de operar a un paciente?

Because I feel as if my attempt to research this falls just a little bit short and isn't quite as informative as it could be, I wanted to also leave you with something else I came across in the process. It is a chart from the World Health Organization. More specifically, it is a surgery checklist written in several different languages to include English and Spanish. I don't know how useful these images are to you, but I include them with the hope that you find them interesting.

I think what I may have been thinking about when I first saw the phrase “¡Al ataque!” were the types of scenes you see in the following clips:

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/b5b63a34-a71f-4d7d-97b4-6a699df8392f
https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/074d6c1d-a0a0-4e01-86a6-a79fb168f9cc
https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/f76e6fc3-f41c-4f45-9cdd-f2dada38ec33

The clip below made me wonder if it might have influenced the author to some degree:

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/9ce7d414-6a1d-4cef-9384-219a458dc4e9

Though it is a bit of a stretch to think that the author might have been influenced by the scene above, The Lorax did do very well at the box office and it was dubbed into Spanish. But I don't know when the book was published, so I can’t say which came first — the book I’ve referred to in this post or El Lórax. More likely, however, and as Diego has mentioned, “¡Al ataque!” is just a good way to generate enthusiasm for an operation, especially a tickling operation. Though Diego’s other suggestions for what a surgeon might say work just as well in my opinion, I don’t think any of them quite generate a sentiment of “comenzar con brio” quite like “¡Al ataque!” does.

As for confusing the use of a defibrillator with a surgical operation, I suppose that’s a reasonable thing for a person without a medical background to do. And perhaps it may be why “¡Al ataque!” didn’t seem entirely out of place to me initially. After all, when you take two paddles and deliver an electric shock with them to a person’s chest, I guess you could call that an attack ... an attack to the heart! Seriously though, protocol in such situations doesn’t advise shouting out “Attack!” Instead, you want to clear the area for all the appropriate reasons, but mainly because you want everyone but the victim to stand clear of the electricity and because touching the victim is potentially fatal. According to one source, you are to say:

I'm Clear, you're clear, we're all clear" while ensuring that the operator is not touching the victim or standing in a wet environment next to the victim that could conduct electricity through the rescuer.

— From First Aid/Automated External Defibrillation (AED)

Though this Wikibook has been translated into Spanish, it isn’t a word for word translation, and no mention is made of what should be said to other first responders or bystanders, but I would imagine it is some form of “¡Claro!” and not “Al ataque!”


As an educational sidenote, if you should ever need a defibrillator, and you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, you want to look for a DESA which is the Spanish equivalent of an AED and stands for desfibrilador externo semiautomático. If signs for it don’t have that acronym on them, they might look like this:

You might want to get some training before you ever have to use one, though.

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  • @walen Well, in my defense, the phrase "Al ataque!" is, the last time I checked, a Spanish phrase and it was found in a book written in Spanish. Speculation about why the author chose to use that Spanish phrase sounds to me like it's a question about the Spanish language. As for the rest, I was hoping to get more of a response to my question about what surgeons say before an operation in general, but also in the Spanish language. – Lisa Beck Feb 17 '18 at 3:27
  • @walen Plus, how many visiting this thread will learn something they didn't know before about the Spanish language? My guess is quite a few ... even if the only answer they read is mine (if only for the fact that it is written in English). – Lisa Beck Feb 17 '18 at 3:28
  • @LisaBeck: me pierdo en tu razonamiento: algunos hemos aprendido algo sobre el español porque tu respuesta está escrita en inglés (¿?) – user18465 Feb 21 '18 at 5:31

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