9

I drafted a little 4-minute speech in English which I translated into Spanish and have so far presented once online to a Spanish tutor of mine.

Near the beginning of the speech I have somewhat of a throw-away line in which I say something silly about Alexander the Great, followed by:

... and Alexander the Great probably wasn't that much of a Saturday-morning cartoon supervillain.

The translation I attempted at first went like so:

... y Alejandro Magno probablemente no era tan mucho un supervillano de dibujos animados de sábado por la mañana.

That adjective-cluster at the end, describing "supervillano", is so clunky that I had to simply cut out the "Saturday-morning" part of the clause. (As far as I know there's no other way to say that apart from "[de] sábado por la mañana..." is there?)

The final presentation to my tutor was:

... y Alejandro Magno probablemente no era tan mucho un supervillano de dibujos animados.

Perhaps because it's still quite an inelegant phrase, my tutor thought I should've just simply said "he wasn't that much of a supervillain", which, however, does not convey the same meaning that I'm going for.

Also she seemed to have an issue with the grammar around "no era tan mucho un", which she seemed to be telling me should rather be "no era tanto mucho un". Is she right about this?

(Such nuances of grammar are difficult to navigate in this case since my Spanish level is intermediate at best, while her English seems to be at the same level as my Spanish.)

Overall, is there a more concise way to say this while still conveying the same sense of meaning? As in: Cartoons often feature over-the-top supervillain characters. And Alexander the Great was like one of them, but not to such a great extent.

Or is my current phrasing essentially as good as it gets?

11
  • I think a better translation for cartoon would be "caricatura". "Dibujos animados" sounds as clunky or old-fashioned as saying "animated drawings/pictures" in English. – JoL Dec 24 '20 at 18:04
  • Hmmm... Okay, so in [this] context, in Spanish, would caricaturas ordinarily convey the sense of a piece of animation , as opposed to simply a still image (like the case would be with English "caricatures" in the latter instance)? – Adinkra Dec 24 '20 at 18:14
  • 1
    Maybe in other countries "dibujos animados" sounds clunky, but in Spain it sounds very natural. – Hawkings Dec 24 '20 at 18:30
  • 1
    "an American thing(?)" -- Probably American in the sense of the Americas rather than just the US. The Spanish Wikipedia article for "Dibujos Animados" also says, "conocido como caricatura, comiquita o dibujito en zonas de Hispanoamérica o con el anglicismo cartoon". So, I guess the choices are not limited to just those 2 terms. Checking the RAE, I find comiquita is apparently used in Venezuela for animated drawings. – JoL Dec 25 '20 at 16:27
  • 1
    "Does dibujito imply animation or 'a little drawing'?" -- In México, it's always "little drawing", never an animation. If the Wikipedia article is to be believed, there's some place where it can mean animation. The RAE doesn't seem to say where, so "Where does dibujito mean animated drawing?" might be a good question for this site if you're interested. – JoL Dec 28 '20 at 18:58
8

The first comment is that one never writes "tan mucho" (or "tanto mucho") in Spanish. Comparison of equality ("[so/as] + [adj./adv.] + as") is translated into Spanish as "tan + [adj./adv.] + como", but if one is comparing amounts of nouns ("as [much/many] + noun + as"), one says "[tanto/tanta/tantos/tantas] + noun + como". You can think of tanto (see meaning 1) as a contraction of "tan mucho":

  • Tengo tanto dinero como tú (I have as much money as you).

With that out of the way, I would translate the phrase "he is not much of a villain" a little bit more idiomatically using the verb "tener" as

  • Él no tiene mucho de villano

which implicitly means "he has not many of the characteristics of a villain". See more examples of "tener mucho de" on Linguee.

So you could say

  • Alejandro Magno probablemente no tenía [mucho/tanto] de supervillano de dibujos animados.

Regarding the "Saturday-morning" bit: if you have a reason to want to compare Alexander the Great specifically with a Saturday-morning cartoon suprevillain, then you should say that. Grammar is not there to tell you what to say, but how to say it. So you could say

  • Alejandro Magno probablemente no tenía [mucho/tanto] de supervillano de dibujos animados de sábado por la mañana.

You are right that this sounds more "forced" in Spanish than in English, due to the need to use the preposition "de" three times. You could rephrase it a bit and say

  • Alejandro Magno probablemente no era el típico supervillano que sale en los dibujos animados del sábado por la mañana.

which has the very similar meaning ("Alexander the Great was probably not the typical supervillain that appears on Saturday-morning cartoons"), but does not repeat the preposition "de" three times.

1
  • Thank you so much! Of your 3 fully phrased translations, the 1st one seems to work best at capturing the particular strain of what I'm intending but also contained in as little of a mouthful as possible. I believe I fully take your point about acquiring the exact meaning of what I want to say, but it feels like the longer renditions of the phrase don't flow smoothly enough to settle into a witty quip... or at least, I'm not at the level where I could say them fast enough for the joke to land, with the effect instead being that my audience is wondering why I'm being so verbose x-D – Adinkra Dec 25 '20 at 1:01
2

If your intent is to say that his villainy was not cartoonish - exaggerated for dramatic effect rather than being that of a real person - I would suggest

y Alejandro Magno probablemente no era tan como el malo de la pelicula

The idiomatic expression 'el malo de la pelicula' [the bad guy in the movie] to refer to a character or person with unrealistically exaggerated faults is used often by my wife, who speaks Costa Rican Spanish.

2
  • Here's the full context of the line I describe in my Question: As the speech begins I impersonate Alexander the Great, saying to the audience (dramatically affecting a sinister tone) "You might remember me from my conquest of the world 2600 years ago!" [Insert purple grinning emoji here.] Then I follow that up with an exaggerated evil laugh. Then I apologise for the bad joke, ending the thought with "... and Alexander the Great probably wasn't that much of a cartoon supervillain." – Adinkra Dec 25 '20 at 8:27
  • @Adinkra I think my suggestion seems appropriate, given the context. However, I don't know how widespread the expression is in the Spanish-speaking world. – Kirt Dec 25 '20 at 18:16
1

What you (playfully) wrote

... and Alexander the Great probably wasn't that much of a Saturday-morning cartoon supervillain.

would probably translate more accurately as

... y Alejandro Magno probablemente no era tan el super villano típico de los dibujos animados de los sábados por la mañana

The point to stress is that in your English expression you are (even if ironically so) assigning him a bit of a malevolent quality. The word tan is often used in Spanish to convey irony (like to say, a bit yeah, but his feared condition is not to be confused with those of the cartoon evil-doers)

7
  • 2
    "tan el súper villano" is not grammatical Spanish. – Gustavson Dec 24 '20 at 14:26
  • it's a rather common way in the spoken Spanish, at least in Argentina and Uruguay. You can find some written testimonies in books.google ("hombre, no te hagas *tan el joven*. Creo que ya pasaste el tiempo de tu primera juventud") – ipp Dec 24 '20 at 19:21
  • Here's the same expresion found into an excertp from a political book "La fuerza es el derecho de las bestias" de Juan Domingo Perón: Ese imaginado "balance de pagos" del año 1955, es la única cifra negativa de los intercambios citados. Y la inventan porque no había otra cifra negativa. En el correr de los días iremos disciplinando las cifras, reordenándolas y traduciéndolas al lenguaje de la realidad, para que se vea claramente que *no es tan el cuco* como quieren presentarlo. Los ojos se los han puesto donde debía estar la nariz. Es es todo – ipp Dec 24 '20 at 19:33
  • I am from Argentina and have never heard it, let alone read it. – Gustavson Dec 24 '20 at 21:58
  • Interesting that you didn't come across it. It sounds super natural to me where I grew up (northen Argentina) Though the expression is known enough as to be foundable in print, See "Historias de un oficio perdido. O cómo eran las redacciones antes de internet" (...)Me gustaba joderlo con su participación en La fiesta de todos, la película de Sergio Renán sobre el mundial 1978, cuando se ponía tan serio, como para decirle "no te hagás tan el recto que estuviste ahí". Lo pasabamos muy bien. Pero Néstor esta grande para Radio Mitre, la radio necesitaba reformularse. – ipp Dec 24 '20 at 23:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.