I have a book called Pasajes Literatura by Bretz, Dvorak, Kirschner, & Kihyet. In it there is a passage from La conciencia by Ana María Matute. There is a part that says, "En efecto, allá afuera, Mariana oyó el redoble de la lluvia contra los maderos de la puerta. Una lluvia sorda, gruesa, anuncio de la tormenta próxima." I know sorda means 'deaf,' and I saw that the book gives a footnote translating the word as 'deafening'. Deafening in English means 'very loud' like loud to the point that it makes you go deaf. Is this a valid translation of the word sorda because when I look it up in the DLE of the Real Academia Española, I don't see a definition resembling something like 'really loud.' In fact, all of the definitions appear to me to mean 'really quiet.' Is 'deafening' a mistranslation or a valid translation? I know gruesa would mean something like 'heavy,' so maybe the combination of sorda with gruesa is what makes it deafening?

Link to the DLE: https://dle.rae.es/sordo?m=form

"callado, silencioso y sin ruido." "que suena poco o sin timbre claro."

  • 1
    Good question. I have never seen "sordo" used meaning "deafening"... I am going to have to suggest the possibility that that footnote is wrong. I would interpret "lluvia sorda" as definition 3 on DLE (something like a "nondescript, featureless sound"). But maybe someone else knows something I don't...
    – wimi
    Dec 22 '20 at 21:37

It seems that you spotted something that may come odd and confusing with the Spanish paragraph. But if the author intended to mean "deafening" for a noise so loud as to make it impossible to hear anything else the word to use would have been

ensordecedor, ra

  1. adj. Que ensordece.

  2. adj. Dicho de un ruido o de un sonido: Muy intenso.

Though it appears as the adjective sorda applied to the rain was deliberate —for it being a prelude of the near storm— the total expression lacks descriptive quality. I'm with you about the adjective 'gruesa' along (implying heavy/pesada) it makes it problematic leading to a bit of a dissonance; much so because of the word redoble (rumbling) when hitting the wooden door. It brings an association that is not that quiet.

In spite of that I would say that:

  • the author meant sorda (in a not totally fit conjunction with gruesa, but which is something that may happen sometimes when big drops of rain fall scattered and far from each other)
  • and, —most likely because of that non happy or intuitive wording— the translation was not accurate about using deafening
  • 1
    That first bullet point makes a lot of sense, and I think you're right. I feel like I can hear it now: a heavy raindrop, a pause, and then another heavy raindrop all sort of scattered. Perfect! Thank you so much for the help!
    – Wachu
    Dec 23 '20 at 0:20
  • @Wachu I’m not a native speaker either, but I would think of it as almost the opposite of that: “Mariana heard the rumble of rain against the wooden door: a dull, heavy rain, portending the coming thunderstorm” – I’m imagining rain coming down hard and a thick wooden door which lends a dull, rumbling constancy to the sound of the raindrops, making them sound almost like thunder rolling in the distance. Dec 24 '20 at 0:53
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Interesting. I'm not too sure I know what "dull rain" would be. I wouldn't think to describe rain as dull.
    – Wachu
    Dec 26 '20 at 2:49
  • @Wachu Think of how it sounds when rain falls on a tin roof – rapid, high-pitched series of clearly distinguishable individual pit-pats. Now think of it hitting a thick, solid oak door – the individual drops sort of melt into each other, and the whole thing sounds more like a rumble than a series of individual sounds. That’s what I’d describe as a dull, heavy sound, synecdochically applied to the rain itself here, but referring really to the sound. Dec 26 '20 at 10:22

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