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Donde Cristo perdió la estilográfica: In the middle of nowhere

Aug 9, 2013

This morning, my 78-year-old Spanish student (yep, that’s right!) used an expression I had never heard before. He was telling me about a house on an island and he said it was “donde Cristo perdió la estilográfica”. It made me laugh. Literally, it means “where God lost his fountain pen”. What it really means is “in the middle of nowhere” or—to keep the religious theme going—”in a godforsaken place”. The context and his gestures (waiving his hand in the air in circular motion like he was telling somebody to get lost) helped me understand what it meant, but I was left with curiosity.

Is it an expression of his generation? He’s 78 after all. Or is it just a different regionalism? It’s incredible how different expressions can be when you travel to the north of Spain, where he’s from. So, of course, I paid a visit to my friend Google and it turns out quite a few people use this expression all around Spain. I guess it makes sense: imagine dropping a pen from that high up down to earth… who could find it? It would literally be lost.

MORE EXPRESSIONS LIKE THIS IN SPANISH.

I was also surprised to learn that fountain pens aren’t the only things God lost in the middle of nowhere. Spanish people also say, “Donde Cristo perdió la sandalia (the sandal), el gorro (the hat), el mechero (the lighter), el chaleco (the waistcoat), las alpargatas (“alpargatas” are the kind of sandals that ancient Romans would wear, like rope soled sandals)”, and so on and so forth.

AND IN SOUTH AMERICA.

It also amused me to discover that in Latin America, the devil—not God—is the absent-minded one (the most common expression is, “donde el diablo perdió el poncho”), but there the poor thing actually loses parts of its body, like la cola (the tail) and los cuernos (the horns).

THIS IS THE MOST COMMON.

More commonly, though, here in Spain, to say that something is in the middle of nowhere, you’ll hear expressions like ”en el quinto pino” (literally, in the fifth pine tree) or “quién sabe dónde” (who knows where) or “en el medio de la nada” (in the middle of nothing).

THE ORIGIN OF “EN EL QUINTO PINO”.

It’s curious how the expression “en el quinto pino” came to be. In the 19th century Paseo del Recoleto—one of the most famous boulevards of the Spanish capital, Madrid—was lined with five tall and lush pine trees. People used them as meeting points. Back then, instead of “Let’s meet in front of Starbucks”, they would say, “Let’s meet at the forth pine tree”. The fifth one was furthest away from the centre of the city and lovebirds would secretly go there to kiss and hug away from prying eyes. It didn’t take long before people started using “el quinto pino” to refer to a place far, far away—or, as the saying goes, in the middle of nowhere.

SO, HOW DO YOU SAY “IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE” IN SPANISH?

If you want to say that your friend lives in the middle of nowhere, you can use the common expression, “Mi amigo vive en el quinto pino” or the more colourful one, “Mi amigo vive donde Cristo perdió la estilográfica”. But for the latter, expect funny faces!

And by the way, do people even use fountain pens anymore?

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Terrible twos
The organs of the body: workshop for kids
Kids understand if you give them honesty
Bean and seed mosaic
I'm not perfect. I'm aware
DIY yoga cards for kids
Children at the restaurant: let's recalibrate expectations
Don't ask your children to share their toys
Those "good job" that erode our children's confidence
Our Montessori birthday
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Podcast

On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

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Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
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I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.