"Era soltero de nacimiento" is another phrase from Cuentos Alegres. I can only find "single from birth" as a translation. Does it mean an orphan from birth? The mother would have to had died in giving birth for it to make sense.

The story is "Los 38 asesinatos y medio del castillo de Hull" by Enrique Jardiel Poncela. A fuller quote:

Murio mi pobre hijo, Peter.
¿Era casado su hijo?
Era soltero de nacimiento.
Tomaba el vino solo o con selz?

  • 2
    Could you maybe provide a bit of context surounding the quote? – Brian H. Nov 7 at 10:05
  • I back up the request by Brian H. For example, who is the author of that book? – RubioRic Nov 7 at 11:29
up vote 5 down vote accepted

A "soltero" is a bachelor or single person, not an orphan.

"Era soltero de nacimiento"

Sounds like a joke. Everybody is single when born, so "single from birth" is an accurate translation. For example, if you have a beauty mark on your skin you could say

Es un defecto de nacimiento

meaning, "it's an imperfection from birth".

An expression like that (Soltero de nacimiento) could have a second or hidden meaning, depending on the context or use of some literary resources. For example, could it mean that the character was so ugly (something that you get from your genes, meaning, from birth) that he was condemn to be single?

The mother would have to had died in giving birth for it to make sense.

No. Then that character would be an orphan (huérfano) not a soltero. So I guess that when it says "soltero de nacimiento" it actually means "single from birth". We'll have to know more about the context to understand the joke or deeper meaning.

  • 1
    I agree. The adverbial expression de nacimiento is usually used to refer to imperfections you have since your birth, as stated in the Royal Spanish Academy's dictionary. So you say "ciego de nacimiento", or "manco de nacimiento". As those conditions will affect the person their whole life, by saying "soltero de nacimiento" it seems that the person will be alone their whole life. – Charlie Nov 7 at 9:49
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    I think "soltero de nacimiento" could also mean they were born to be single, but not because they are ugly but because they reject a life in a couple. Without context it's hard to tell though. – Brian H. Nov 7 at 10:04
  • Perhaps it would be similar to the English expression or song lyric: "born to be bad". In this case: born to be a bachelor. – curt Nov 9 at 21:44
  • @BrianH.: I think you are right, considering the words Holmes says later (see my answer) – parliament of owls Nov 10 at 18:34

La frase forma parte del interrogatorio de Sherlock Holmes al Sr. Molkestone, cuyo hijo ha sido asesinado:

... Y ¡anoche!, anoche, señor Holmes ... murió también mi pobre hijo, ¡mi Peter!...
-Llore usted, pero no llore más de seis minutos; se lo suplico Good [sic] save the King! -replicó Sherlock Holmes.
Y pasado los seis minutos volvió a interrogar:
...
-¿Sabe usted si su hijo tenía algún enemigo?
-Su sastre le odiaba.
-Deme las señas del sastre.
-Grueso, bajo, de Liverpool.
...
-¿Estaba casado?
-Era soltero de nacimiento.
-¿Se le conocía alguna amante?
-No se le conocían las cosas así como así.
-¿Tomaba el vermut seco o con seltz?
-En vaso.
-Es todo lo que necesitaba saber, señor Molkestone.

Dado que el estilo de Jardiel Poncela se caracteriza por un humorismo absurdo e ilógico (*), en principio todo hace suponer que

Era soltero de nacimiento.

es un recurso humorístico y que su traducción debería ser literal:

Single from birth.


Sin embargo, algo más adelante en la obra, Holmes esboza una teoría sobre el misterioso caso (aún en desarrollo), en la que parece darle otro significado:

Soltero por tozudez, según declara el propio padre; hombre a quien no se le conocían las cosas así como así; bebedor de vermut en vaso; odiado por su sastre, lo que prueba que no le pagaba ...

lo que sugiere que, para Holmes, soltero de nacimiento no era single from birth sino determinado a permanecer soltero, como señala @Brian H. en un comentario a la respuesta de @Diego que reproduzco: "I think "soltero de nacimiento" could also mean they were born to be single, but not because they are ugly but because they reject a life in a couple."

(*) Por ejemplo, en la obra figuran en inglés las expresiones "Happy new year", "I love you!", "To be or not to be!", "Good [sic] save the King!" y "five o'clock tea", "Home sweet home", "It's long a way to Tipperary!" y "Merry christmas!" traducidas en notas a pie de página todas ellas como "El tiempo es oro"!

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