In the Spanish translation of Twain's "Tom Sawyer," the following original passage:

Go home to your Nance and your kids

...is translated as:

Vete a tu casa con tu parienta, y tus chicos

...which, to me, seems to be saying, "Go home with your relative, and your children."

Did the translator not know that "Nance" was a personal name (short for "Nancy") or what?

And what would the best translation for this, anyway - something like "Vete a tu casa a tu Nance" o ""Vete a tu casa a tu esposa"?

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    Parienta is used in Spain to colloquially refer to the wife, I haven't heard it nor read it in this same sense in Latin America. Dec 4, 2018 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


I'm sure the translator knew that Nance was a shortened form for Nancy; otherwise he couldn't have translated it as parienta, a rather colloquial form for wife. The word pariente meaning relative is almost always used with the -e ending, it has no feminine form except to refer to la parienta:

  1. m. y f. coloq. Esposo con relación al otro miembro del matrimonio.

In this sense it is almost always used in feminine. I have never seen "mi pariente" used to refer to someone's husband, at least in Spain.

So, why using parienta? Because literary works are not translated, but adapted. If I had to choose between "vete a casa con Nancy", "vete a casa con tu Nancy" or "vete a casa con tu mujer", all the choices are correct but there are slight difference in meaning:

  • "Vete a casa con Nancy" sounds conforting, and it implies that both people know Nancy closely.
  • "Vete a casa con tu Nancy" sounds a bit despective towards Nancy.
  • "Vete a casa con tu mujer" sounds between neutral and conforting, but it implies that the speaker does not know Nancy in a close way (maybe he does not even know her name), which might be the case in the novel. Could Nance be used in the novel as a generic way to refer to someone's wife when you do not know her name?

And using parienta is just because it is a very colloquial way to say wife, and it fits very well with the low-level language used in the village where the Tom Sayer novel takes place.

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    I personally suspect it's a slang term for one's wife, or if not that the name of the fellow's wife. But, I've also heard it attested as slang (really, an offensive slur) for a gay man, and I've found sources that suggest it's from the 19th century, so I wonder whether that interpretation is possible.
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 4, 2018 at 9:26
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    @Obie2.0 I know, I discovered that while researching the term for a question I asked in the English language site.
    – Charlie
    Dec 4, 2018 at 9:28
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    In the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan the line occurs, "with his Nancy on his knee" which I have always assumed just meant his female nearest and dearest but I am not sure. The line is sometimes these days the cause of homophobic sniggers from the audience.
    – mdewey
    Dec 4, 2018 at 16:22

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