Thursday, December 21, 2006

On the blink?

What would be the Spanish equivalent of the expression on the blink (applied, for example, to an appliance operating intermittently, especially one "on its last legs", i.e. one that is about to "give up the ghost").

"On the blink" doesn't refer to a permanent failure. If something is on the blink, it means that it is operating erratically, that it may work fine for a bit and then not work at all, that it is somewhat temperamental, and that this behaviour is intermittent. A printer on the blink, for example, may print 20 documents perfectly and then completely screw up the next one (which, by some strange law of nature, will be the one that you really needed most), but then work fine again the next day.

Once something fails completely, it ceases to be "on the blink". It then becomes: in a state of disrepair, non-functional, broken, not working, bust, knackered, f*cked, etc.

A friend suggested estar al punto de bloquear, but he is also a Spanish student like me. Is that OK?


- G.

Hi, G!

Sorry to disagree with your friend. I've never heard bloquear meaning "on the blink" unless it's a computer (not for a printer, a car, or any other machine). The meaning would be "to hang", i.e. the system stops responding, especially when everything is still visible on screen, but nothing happens when you move or click the mouse or type on the keyboard. However, after restarting the system it works perfectly right. Note tha this means the computer is failing in that very moment, NOT that it would work again and fail later, and so on - and it's not permanently damaged either. For this, we also use trabarse and colgarse or No responde.

Actually, bloquear is not only used to say it's hung, but it implies there's some kind of security system implied... i.e. It's "blocked" because you attemped to do something the system won't allow you to. e.g. You're trying to access a computer with a wrong password... then it "blocks" itself.

For "on the blink", we would say in Spanish: averiarse, estropearse, arruinarse, deteriorarse, descomponerse, dañarse, estar defectuoso(a), joderse(Spain), chanflearse (Mexico), fregarse. Those phrases are not used to say a computer is totally broken only, but also meaning it's permanently failing (it works now, it doesn't work later, then it works again...). Thus, they can be used to mean both: "on the blink" or "completely out of work".

Now, if you want an idiomatic expression:

  • If a machine ceases to work at all, I would say se murió.

  • If my printers works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't work... and I can't be sure if it's gonna work this time... I would say mi impresora funciona cuando se le da la gana or mi impresora loquea (i.e. está loca).

These are some of the expressions used in Guatemala. I'm not sure they're used in other countries, but I think any Spanish-speaking person would understand them.

Have a great day!

- Karin

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