I've been translating an article from Barcelona's greatest detective, Larry Kovaks P.I., into Spanish for our local newspaper El Indálico. Hard work. Kovaks is a great detective with his vocabulary stuck in the golden age of Phillip Marlowe and Micky Spillane. How do you translate something like 'the dame eased over to me. She had great palookas and a smile that didn't stop.'? (Bad example, probably - he writes much better than that). But, how do you translate the spirit of 'a dame'? Or a 'broad', a 'sister', a 'skirt', a 'bimbo' or a 'long drink on a stick'?
I asked my son. He's fluent and knows all the slang. Well maybe there isn't any. Una chica, he says, or una nena, tía, muchacha...
No, I mean slang.
He settles on una zagala. No use. Too modern and anyway, I want a dame not a flapper.
My wife has a go: una zorra. No, that's more of a 'bitch'.
Later, I try my old friend sitting at a table drinking a coffee with his wife. ¿Oiga, como se dice en plan detective una mujer atractiva?
That would be, like in old-fashioned Spanish... he thinks for a second or two - ¡un monumento!
¿Un monumento? I gasp.
Hmm. I stare at his approving wife. I decide that it's the not the ideal moment to talk about palookas.
So me, I'll keep asking...