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Atar y Desatar: Fasten, Unfasten, and Relieve

Primero me lo voy a atar...

First, I'm going to tie them up...

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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...porque después lo vamos a desatar.

...because we'll untie them later.

Caption 23, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Sentí el sudor, y desaté mi alivio

I felt the sweat, and I unleashed my relief

Caption 15, Los Pericos - Complicado

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Atar and desatar are two nicely opposing verbs which mean "to fasten" and "to unfasten." They can be very useful, but are often unknown by Spanish learners. This week in part 10 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, when Majo and Gloria's new friend says me lo voy a atar..., he is referring to his pants, "I am going to fasten them." (Note that he uses the singular el pantalón to refer to a single pair of "pants"?) Likewise in the next caption we find después lo vamos a desatar "later we will unfasten them" (still referring to his pants).

The verb desatar shows up again in the music video Complicados from the band Los Pericos. Here it takes on a more of a figurative meaning, "to unleash," as in "unleashing an emotion." Caption 15 of the song contains the line desaté mi alivio, which is "I unleashed my relief." It is a bit unusual to speak of "unleashing relief," but we can chalk this up to artistic license. As in English, it is usually anger that one "unleashes."


Desaté mi furia, y, después, tuve alivio.
I unleashed my anger, and, later, I was relieved.


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