Meter la pata

Although the commonly used phrase “meter la pata” originated in Spain,  it is used extensively throughout Argentina and much of Latin America. Pata means leg and foot, not that of a human’s, but of an animal’s (although you will hear many Latin Americans using pata for a person’s foot too). If I were to literally translate the phrase, it would mean “to put the animal’s leg/foot in it.” The colloquial meaning, however, is to make a mistake or to say the wrong thing. These remarks are usually innocent and never intentional, but can nevertheless lead to an embarrassing situation, and sometimes may even have some unpleasant consequences. Two equivalent English expressions might be to talk too much or to cross the line. In other words, you put your foot in your mouth.

The origin of the expression isn’t completely clear, though it is thought to be related to the hunting world. When an animal gets its leg caught in a hunter’s trap, it makes the mistake of metiendo la pata in the trap.

Do you still have doubts? Well, let’s say that I haven’t seen my friend Ana in 3 months. During those 3 months, she gained 15 pounds. When we finally see each other again, I congratulate her on being pregnant and rather than smile and say thanks, she looks rather offended. I definitely metí  la pata.

And if you or someone you know does this with a surprising frequency, we might refer to them as a mete pata, because they mete la pata all too often. 

Finally, if you messed up badly, you can also say, “he metido la pata hasta el fondo,” fondo means deep, so the phrase would mean to really make a mess of things. For example, I start chatting to Luis about his upcoming birthday party and completely forget that it’s a surprise, metí la pata al fondo and ruined the surprise.

Before you meter la pata, think smart and choose Spanish in Rosario to learn Spanish!

Written by: Vanessa Galban

ESL Teacher