“¡Hay ropa tendida!”

My parents are now both officially retired. They’ve visited us in Spain quite a few times over the past thirteen years, usually for a week or two every year, but now they are here for a three month stretch. The other day, in my brother-in-law’s backyard, my mother was listening to the rapid-fire conversation taking place around the table after lunch. She was concentrating really hard and at one point she leaned over and said to me, “I understood something. They’re talking about clothes.”


My mother caught the phrase, “Hay ropa tendida.” Literal translation: “There are clothes hanging out to dry.” She picked up on the word ropa (clothes) which is pretty impressive considering the speed of the conversation combined with the extremeñan accent and the rambunctious glass-clinking pandemonium that accompanies the drinking of chupitos after a typical three-hour Sunday meal. Unfortunately, the phrase “hay ropa tendida” has nothing to do with clothes. It’s slang for “Heads up, the children are listening.”

The conversation had been a bit of gossip about a married couple we all knew that had recently split up due to some fidelity issues. One of my nieces, fed up with the game of parchís * she had been playing with her cousins (she was apparently losing badly), sulked out the back door and sat down at the table with the adults.

My sister-in-law yelled, “¡Hay ropa tendida!”  and everybody laughed.

My niece looked around suspiciously.

“¿De que estais hablando?” (“What are you talking about?”)

She knew something was up, something a helluva lot more interesting than parchís, so she tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible in the hopes that we would forget she was even there and drift back into whatever it was we had been talking about before her arrival.

Not a hope, little lady. Better luck next time.



* parchís : aka: parcheesi  in the US; ludo in the UK


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