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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word at a time: “Mână”

Continuing the series of articles about phrases based on body parts, which are as numerous in Romanian as they are in English, let’s have a look in this post at expressions with “mână”. Coming from Latin manus, Romanian “mână” means “hand”, it can refer to either the palm, the forearm or the whole arm, and its plural is “mâini”.

“Mână” per se doesn’t have many secondary meanings, and all of the phrases reviewed below are based on its first, literal meaning, i.e. “hand”. Here are the most frequent such expressions, with their translations into English and short clarifying examples:

Ÿ mână în mână = hand in hand, closely associated

“Popovici şi Drăgan au fot amândoi sancţionaţi pentru fraudă.” / “Popovici and Drăgan have both been sanctioned for fraud.”

“Normal. Doar au lucrat mână-n mână.” / “Obviously. They worked hand in hand, didn’t they?”

Ÿ una la mână = first of all, on the one hand

“De ce ţi-ai dat demisia?” / “Why did you resign?”

“Mă nemulţumea salariul. Asta, una la mână. Doi la mână, nu-mi plăceau colegii.” / “I was unhappy with the salary. That’s on the one hand. Secondly, I didn’t like my colleagues.”

Ÿ din mână în mână = from hand to hand

“Copii, daţi sandvişul din mână în mână până ajunge la Petrică, în spatele autocarului.” / “Children, pass the sandwich from hand to hand till it reaches Petrică, at the back of the bus.”

Ÿ a ţi-o face cu mâna ta = to bring something upon yourself

“Ai auzit că i-au suspendat carnetul de conducere lui Nicu?” / “Have you heard that they’ve suspended Nicu’s driving license?”

“Da, dar şi-a făcut-o cu mâna lui: el a cauzat accidentul.” / “Yes, but he brought it on himself: he caused the acident.”

Ÿ a fi la mâna cuiva = to hinge on someone

“Cumperi apartamentul săptămâna asta?” / “Are you going to buy the flat this week?”

“Nu pot. Sunt la mâna băncii. Aştept să îmi aprobe creditul imobiliar.” / “I can’t. I hinge on the bank. I’m waiting for them to approve my house loan.”

Ÿ a da o mână de ajutor = to lend a hand

“Cum ai reuşit să termini curăţenia în doar o oră?” / “How did you manage to finish the cleaning in just one hour?”

“Ioana mi-a dat o mână de ajutor şi-aşa am terminat repede.” / “Ioana lent a hand, that’s how I finished quickly.”

Ÿ a-i fi peste mână = to be inconvenient

“Vii pe la noi după concert?” / “Will you visit us after the concert?”

“Mi-e cam peste mână: concertul e la Romexpo, iar voi – în celălalt capăt al oraşului.” / “It’s rather inconvenient: the concert is at Romexpo and you live at the other end of the city.”

Ÿ a băga mâna în foc = to guarantee something

“I-ai explicat Mare ice avem de făcut?” / “Did you explain to Mara what we have to do?”

“Da, dar nu bag mâna-n foc că a înţeles. Nu era atentă.” / “Yes, but I can’t guarantee she understood. She wasn’t paying attention.”

Ÿ a pune mâna să facă ceva = to get down to doing something

“Ce bine e să te odihneşti!” / “It’s so good to rest!”

“Mai bine ai pune mâna să faci ordine, că acum vin musafirii.” / “You’d better get down to tidying up, as the guests are about to arrive.”

Ÿ a pune mână de la mână = to chip in

“Scump cadou vreţi s­ă-i luaţi Mihaelei!” / “The gift you want to get Mihaela is quite pricey!”

“Da, dar punem toţi mână de la mână, şi e convenabil aşa.” / “Yeah, but we’ll all chip in and that way it’s convenient.”

Ÿ a-i da mâna = to afford

“Putem să facem ore suplimentare duminica asta.” / “We could work extra time this Sunday.”

“Ţie-ţi dă mâna să vorbeşti, că n-ai copii!...” / “You can afford to suggest that, since you don’t have kids!...”

Ÿ a fi legat de mâini şi de picioare = to be stuck

“Trimite-ne odată propunerea aia de buget!” / “Just send us that budget proposal!”

“Nu pot. Până nu am OK-ul şefului, sunt legat de mâini şi de picioare.” / “I can’t. I’m stuck until I get my boss’s OK.”

As for proverbs with “mână”, there aren’t many, but one is worth considering: “Să nu ştie o mână ce face alta”. It may be derived from the Bible (the Gospel according to Matthew, 6:3), meaning “let not one hand know what the other is doing”. Interestingly, it means to do two related things separately or in an unconnected manner, to be carrying out two activities at the same time pretending they’re unrelated. There’s obviously a hint of secrecy or else hypocrisy here, which makes this saying intriguing. An example? Let’s imagine two partners living together. Sam is so generous as to bring all of his salary home and hand it to Pam; Pam is happy with this arrangement, but she is missing something: the salary’s actually higher than what Sam brings home, and the rest of the money is put by in a secret savings account which Pam has no idea about. So what does Sam do? He makes sure that “o mână nu ştie ce face cealaltă”...

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