Blood from a turnip, pears from elms

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to coax, cajole, sweet-talk, guilt-trip, threaten, bully or otherwise manipulate a turnip into giving you blood. Because he doesn’t have any and never will. Not even if he longs to give you blood with all of his being, goes to the ends of the earth to do so, wants nothing more than to make you happy, becomes filled with self-loathing for not being able to, or even is willing to do something absurd like undergo a medical procedure. All he can give you is turnip. Accept it and move on. 

I was thinking about the phrase you can’t get blood from a turnip (or stone) yesterday. It’s quite a graphic expression, but I like it. It’s so irrefutable. What’s the Spanish equivalent? Pedirle peras al olmoLike asking an elm tree for pears. I don’t like the Spanish phrase as much because if desperate, one could almost delude themselves into thinking that there’s a slight chance of getting an elm tree to bear pears. An obstinate person could always cling to fantasies like grafting, a freak of nature, genetic modification, etc. It also lacks the tinge of violence in the turnip phrase. Furious, you could grab a hammer and start bashing the turnip’s brains out, but nary a drop of blood will you produce. Frustration and violence won’t get you what you want–just mashed turnips. Leave the poor turnip be.

Pedirle peras al olmo emphasizes the futility of an attempt or infeasibility of an expectation, that it’s a fool’s errand. You could sit by an elm tree all day and ask pretty please, beg, pray, grovel, wail, gnash your teeth and moan to no avail–you’re barking up the wrong tree. Why not just cross the orchard and befriend the pear tree? He has pears aplenty to make you happy for a lifetime. Sticking with the elm tree when what you want or need are pears will leave you both miserable, and it’s not his fault.

Pedirle peras al olmo

Ya sé de sobra que esperar profesionalismo de este pasquín es como pedirle peras al olmo.

I know full well that to expect professionalism from this rag of a newspaper is asking for the impossible.

Se pide a porteños solidaridad y responsabilidad en consumo de energía = peras al olmo.

They’re asking Porteños for cooperation and conscientiousness in their energy use. Right, fat chance. So not happening.

Mija, no se le pueden pedir peras al olmo, hay que ser realista. No te esfuerces en cambiarlo, busca otro. 

Sweetie, you can’t get blood from a turnip–you have to be realistic. Don’t waste your time trying to change him; just look for someone else.

6 responses to “Blood from a turnip, pears from elms

  1. Oh, I’ve never heard of “blood from a turnip” before! From a stone, maybe…I’m not sure. Seems that I just learned both the Englisha dn Spanish versions at the same time :)


    • Not an everyday phrase by any means, but a good one. Often used to say that you can’t get money from people when they don’t have it, but also used more broadly- character traits, impossible expectations, etc. PS, I’ve never tried turnips! Here’s another turnip phrase for you: just fell off the turnip truck :)


  2. Le saqué mucho jugo a tu artículo.


    • ¿Cómo así? ¿Jugo de nabo o jugo de pera?


      • Digamos que el jugo es sangre, de nabo. A proposito, aprendi de tu respuesta que turnip es nabo. Nunca he visto uno, pero aca probe los turnips. They are OK, not great but not offensive either.

        I never know what exactly you are up to; you have a way with words, as we all know. So seriously, you never heard the expression “sacarle el jugo a algo?” Significa que saque provecho. Algo asi como, I got a lot out of your posting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s