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Yesterday I was in the supermarket in Barcelona and there were a lot of people. The cashier then said to his colleague "Poca gente hoy, sí?", indicating that there are a lot of customers in the line. Someone explained to me before that in some situations (depending how it is used as well) "poco" can mean "a lot", for example when you order food and say "poco" it does not necessarily mean that you want only a little. How do you have to use it to mean "a lot" and how do you have to use it to mean "a little"?

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    It is simply sarcasm. It is not unique to Spanish, and it is not unique to the word poco. In many languages, many words can be meant as their exact opposite, depending on context and inflection.
    – Juan Perez
    Jan 19, 2023 at 21:57
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    Not sure if related. But in English "quite" usually means "very" but funny enough when you say "There are quite a few people" it doesn't mean "there are very few people" but quite the opposite!
    – Ivo
    Jan 20, 2023 at 12:33
  • I would say that irony and understatements are more common in English than in other languages like Spanish.
    – Pere
    Jan 20, 2023 at 15:06

2 Answers 2

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The expression:

"Poca gente hoy, ¿sí?"

to indicate that there are a lot of people is simply ironic.

There are other similar expressions indicating a low amount or number when the meaning is exactly the opposite, for example:

  • Menudo problema me trajiste... (You've brought me a small problem, meaning the problem is big.)

  • Pobre gente, mira cómo viven... (Poor people, see how they live, meaning they are rich people living in mansions.)

  • Gana poco, apenas 1.000.000 por mes. (He earns little, just 1,000,000 per month, meaning just the opposite.)

  • Bueno, bebí un poco. (Well, I drank a little bit, trying to minimize that he/she drank a lot.)

  • Conduce lento, a tan solo 200 km/h (He drives slowly, at only 200 km/h, which is clearly a fast speed.)

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En líneas generales podemos hablar de "Antífrasis", una figura retórica que consiste en afirmar lo contrario de lo que se quiere decir.

Antífrasis

https://dle.rae.es/ant%C3%ADfrasis


Es un modo sarcástico de hablar, una forma amarga y un tanto pesimista que en el fondo encierra un tipo queja por alguna razón.

Al ser un tipo o modo de hablar o referirse a algo, no solamente se encapsula en la palabra "poco", para significar "mucho" o viceversa. Normalmente se utiliza con amigos o personas, con las que se mantiene cierta relación o suficiente confianza como para hacer pequeñas bromas. Lo más complicado en utilizar este tipo de frases, es el tono o entonación que se le da a la interpretación, algo distinto al que se usa normalmente, y que el oyente percibe que es una broma, una ironía o sarcasmo.

Ejem.

Llegas con alguien a la playa y dices;

  • "No se que sitio elegir para poner la sombrilla, hoy la playa esta vacía"

(Cuando quieres decir lo contrario, es decir, hay tanta gente que no sabes donde vas a poner la sombrilla).

Otros ejemplos

- Llamar "peludo" a un calvo.

- Llamar "alto" a una persona bajita.

- Llamar "fortachón" a una persona de constitución débil.

- Llamar "sabio" a un ignorante.

- Llamar "hablador" a una persona muy callada.

- Llamar "dulce" al vinagre.


Para una mejor comprensión en inglés

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiphrasis

Take your time, we've got all day", meaning "hurry up, we don't have all day".

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