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Second Hand Meanings

Arturo Vega moved from Mexico to the U.S. decades ago, so he's very well versed in all sorts of Americana. In fact, in our Spanish-language interview, he's occasionally searching for the right Spanish word, when the English one is at the tip of his tongue. For example, when Vega described a beloved belt buckle featuring an eagle that looked like it was made by "drunk Vikings," he asks his interviewer for help finding the right word.


Listen in:


Yo tenía un cinturón... que lo compré en una tienda del ejército, de esas de... cómo se dice, de

"surplus", de, de desperdicios, de...

I had a belt... that I bought at an army store, one of those... how do you say, of

surplus, of, of leftovers, of...


-De segunda.



De segunda, con un águila muy grande. Era de una banda militar.

Second-hand, with a very big eagle. It was from a military band.

Captions 45-50, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 4

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In the U.S., we all know about Army-Navy surplus stores, where you can find fatigues, drab-olive jackets and eagle-blazoned belts. But selling military surplus to the public for discount prices is not a common practice in many other countries, hence the struggle for words here. Vega says "surplus" in English, which is usually translated as "excedente" in Spanish. But Vega follows up with "desperdicios" which translates as "waste," "scraps" or "leftovers" -- as in, "desperdicios sólidos" ("solid wastes").


Hearing his search for words, our interviewer jumps in with "De segunda" -- which is short for "de segunda mano" ("second hand"). Now, second-hand stores are known the world over. Although Vega must know that second-hand is a bit different than Army-Navy surplus, but he's simply trying to tell a story here. In other words, the belt was cheap, OK? And from that cheap belt came Vega's inspiration for the famous logo for the Ramones.


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