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In the spanish translaton of Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the following paragraph:

"What! and I as high as a tree and as big as a church? All right, then; I WOULD come; but I lay I'd make that man climb the highest tree there was in the country."

...is translated as:

––¡Cómo! ¿Si yo fuera igual de alto que un árbol y cuadrado como un armario de tres cuerpos? Bueno, vale; iría, pero te apuesto a que ese hombre tendría que subirse al árbol más alto que hubiera en todo el país.

Here “as big as a church” is translated as “cuadrado como un armario de tres cuerpos" ("square like a three-body closet” according to google translate). What?!? Why? What’s wrong with “tan grande como una iglesia”?

UPDATE

To answer pablod76, here is the previous spot where the size of a church is mentioned:

"Why," said he, "a magician could call up a lot of genies, and they would hash you up like nothing before you could say Jack Robinson. They are as tall as a tree and as big around as a church."

––Hombre ––dijo––, un mago puede llamar a un montón de genios, que te podrían hacer picadillo en medio minuto. Son igual de altos que árboles y cuadrados como armarios de tres cuerpos.

So, it is translated in pretty much the same way (cuadrados como armarios de tres cuerpos)

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    As far as comparing something to the size of a church, I have heard a madrileña say: Es una mentira tan grande como una catedral. But iglesias come in all shapes and sizes, and since Spanish-speakers tend to live among many churches, it might not be as descriptive as it is to a native English-speaker. There may be other cultural notions which led the translator to choose to avoid the church comparison.
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 14:18
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    What does the translation say a few paragraphs before that, where the original says «“Why,” said he, “a magician could call up a lot of genies, and they would hash you up like nothing before you could say Jack Robinson. They are as tall as a tree and as big around as a church.”»?
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:59
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    @B.ClayShannon Thanks. At least the translator was consistent.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:02
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    La traducción al español fue realizado por una persona de España o de alguno de los países de América que habla español nativamente? Esto influye en la manera de traducir modismos y giros del idioma original al español
    – alvalongo
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 20:57
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    Concuerdo con @nopaltepec que las iglesias en los países que hablan español nativamente son edificaciones de diferentes tamaños.
    – alvalongo
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 20:59

1 Answer 1

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I'm not sure that a Spanish speaker would use 'iglesia' to describe a giant person unless buildings have been mentioned(as tall as the Twin Towers, as tall as a giraffe, as tall as a mountain)

"Como un ropero/armario de tres cuerpos" means "as big as a cupboard/closet/truck/whale/barrel/phone booth", and refers to a person as broad chest, bulky, broad-shouldered, corpulent or fat in a bad or funny way.

Maybe he's like a wide bodied giant is more appropriate.

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  • A few paragraphs before this snippet, Huck reports Tom explaining about genies: “They are as tall as a tree and as big around as a church.” I wonder what the translator did there. I tried looking whether this was an idiom, but it doesn't look like it. “Grande como un ropero” was a simile my father used to make about well-built people. Specifying “de tres cuerpos” seems to me rather excessive.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:58
  • "ropero de tres cuerpos" is not so common, but it is still in use. If you want to emphasize the size.
    – King Midas
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 14:34

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