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Transcript 1
Transcript 2
Lesson

Tener Malas Pulgas



Mouse-over Spanish text fragments in red to see English translation
The expression tener (muy) malas pulgas, literally to have bad fleas, is commonly used in Spanish to describe a person who is constantly in a bad mood, grumpy, resentful or that easily gets angered. An equivalent expression in English is to have a (very) bad temper. The origin of this expression is unclear, but it is easy to deduce that whoever has fleas is uncomfortable and not very happy about it, and fruit of popular imagination, soon became a common expression of the Spanish language.

Los niños colgaron la pelota en el jardín del hombre que tiene muy malas pulgas y ahora no se la quiere devolver.
The kids threw the ball in the yard of the man with the bad temper, and now he refuses to return it to them.

En el episodio de hoy discutiremos las malas pulgas de los famosos. Ayer, la famosa actriz discutió con un fotógrafo que le estaba retratando, y le rompió su cámara fotográfica.
In today's episode, we will discuss the bad mood of celebrities. Yesterday, the famous actress argued with a photographer that was taking a picture of her, and she broke his camera.

There are also several variations of the same expression. The use of the term malas pulgas is also common without the verb "tener", such as in "las malas pulgas de (alguien)". In this situation, it refers to an isolated incident of someone having a bad temper, but does not necessary mean that the person is always bad-tempered. Another situation is to combine malas pulgas with the verb estar. As we have studied in previous episodes, the verb estar is mainly used in Spanish with temporary states. If we use the expression "estar de malas pulgas", means that today, or just for a short period of time, I'm not having a good day, so I'm in a bad mood.

Toda mi familia cree que mi tío tiene muy malas pulgas, pero conmigo siempre es una persona muy amable.
My whole family thinks that my uncle has a bad temper, but he's always very kind to me.

La señora del tercero tiene muy malas pulgas. Siempre anda quejándose y gruñendo, y todos le rehúyen.
That woman who lives on the third floor has a very bad temper. She's always moaning and groaning, and everybody shuns her.

Apart from people, this expression can also be used to describe animal's behavior.

¡Cuidado con ese perro! Tiene muy malas pulgas y te puede morder.
Watch out for that dog! It has a very bad temper and can bite you.

El caballo está en la cuadra. Últimamente está teniendo muy malas pulgas, por eso no dejamos que nadie lo monte.
The horse is in the stable. Lately, he's been having very bad temper, so we don't let anyone ride him.

Esta mañana perdí el autobús y llegué tarde a trabajar. Después, un coche me salpicó agua de un charco, y por la tarde, se me rompió un tacón del zapato y tuve que caminar sin él hasta casa. ¡Ahora mismo estoy de muy malas pulgas!
This morning I missed the bus and arrived late for work. Then a car, splashed water from a puddle all over me, and in the evening, I broke the heel of my shoe and had to walk home without it. Right now, I'm in a very bad mood!

Despidieron al profesor por tener muy malas pulgas. Cuando los alumnos no le hacían caso, él les tiraba un trozo de tiza a la cabeza o les pegaba con una regla en los nudillos.
The teacher got fired for having a bad temper. When the students didn't pay him any attention, he threw a piece of chalk to their heads or hit them with a ruler in their knuckles.

Sus malas pulgas le costaron todas sus amistades. Nadie podía aguantarle ya que estaba gruñendo todo el día y quejándose de todo así que sus amigos se cansaron de él y ya nadie quiere hablarle.
His bad temper cost him all his friendships. Nobody could stand him because he was grumbling all day and complaining about everything so his friends got tired of him and none of them wants to talk to him anymore.