Bañarse dos veces en el mismo río

I just read this headline in El Espectador:

Tribunal prohíbe a entrenadores del parque SeaWorld que se bañen con orcas

And I’ll admit that I mentally translated (or understood) it like this: Court prohibits SeaWorld trainers from bathing with killer whales

SeaWorld trainer swimming with killer whale

I remembering seeing it last night as well and understanding it in the same way. And since it didn’t make sense for the trainers to be bathing in these giant whale tanks (Do they not have shower facilities in their homes? Is their pay so paltry?), I think I even had the subconscious thought that it must be that they’re forbidden from getting in the tanks during the whales’ bath time. I know, embarrassing. But it’s not like I clicked on the article and had that idea for its duration–it was just a fleeting thought as I scanned the headlines.

Because, wait. Does a whale take a shower? Is a fish capable of getting dirty? Are dolphins ever in need of a good hosing down? (Not rhetorical questions) I’m no sea life expert, but I’m going to guess no. We’ve got to look for another meaning of bañarse.

And we have one: bañarse can also mean what you and I would call to swim. Of course, in general terms to swim is nadar. In many countries, though, it’s perfectly natural to use bañarse for pools and the ocean when you merely get in, splash around, maybe jump some waves, float on your back, and so on and so forth. Essentially you go for a dip or go for a swim but you can’t really call what you’re doing exercise. You can also use darse un baño for this. Nadar can give the impression more of actually doing a particular stroke, swimming from point A to point B. It seems that in general bañarse is more common in Spain, but it’s definitely used in several Latin American countries as well, Colombia being but one of them. Don’t overthink it; it’s hard to go wrong with nadar. Just know that there’s another option, and you’ll likely hear it at some point if you haven’t already.

El mar estaba helado como para tiritar de frío, pero igual quería bañarme.

The ocean was shiveringly cold, but I still wanted to go in.

Barcelona estudia multar a Shakira por bañarse en una fuente

Barcelona contemplates fining Shakira for dancing in a fountain

Bolivia tuvo mar. Yo sueño con bañarme en una playa boliviana. (Hugo Chávez, 2003)

Bolivia once had a coastline. I dream of going swimming at a Bolivian beach.

Even in English, we have two names for what you wear in the water that blur the lines between to swim and to bathe: a swimsuit or a bathing suit. In Spanish it’s usually traje de baño, but bañador in Spain.

You cannot step into the same river twice –this is a famous quote of Heraclitus. It’s impossible to return to and repeat an experience because situations and we ourselves are constantly changing. There are various versions of the phrase, and some say that you can’t swim or bathe in the same river twice.

This quote is often translated thus in Spanish: No se baña dos veces en el mismo río.

Fotografía Caño Cristales: por Mario Carvajal (cc) 2012

A river you shouldn’t step or bathe in even once, but certainly should visit before you die Caño Cristales, La Macarena, Colombia

So, back to our title–it’s clearly saying that SeaWorld trainers are now forbidden from swimming with the killer whales.

As a sidenote and slight continuation of the theme from yesterday’s post: Speaking of swimming, be careful if you ever come to Bogotá and decide you want to find a place to swim. Bogotá’s most famous brothel is called La Piscina, and if you, say, ask a taxi driver to take you to a piscina and you fumble a bit with the Spanish, he’s very liable to think that’s where you want to go. A word to the wise.

5 responses to “Bañarse dos veces en el mismo río

  1. I just learned of the existence of Caño Cristales recently- have you been? Is it fairly close to the city?


    • Hola Linda! I have not, but I really want to. I’m actually doing an 80+ page translation on Caño Cristales right now, and it’s torture to be immersed in it (bathing or swimming) in my day to day and not have visited this paradise! It’s just one department over in El Meta (I assume you meant Bogotá when you said the city), but flight options are a bit limited. The tourist season is from mid-May to mid-December. ¡Vamos! :)


  2. Pues que, era mucho tiempo hasta me acostumbré que los mexicanos dicen alberca para significar piscina.. pero bañarse es muy común aquí. (Y en mi experiencia muchos de los latinos van a bañarse para lucir sus cuerpos mas que hacer ejercicio, entonces no sé si es tan diferente “la piscina” o la alberca) Espero que todo va bien linda :)


    • Jajaja, me gustó tu broma sobre La Piscina. No la capté la primera vez, tocó leerla dos veces. Es obvio que la palabra alberca viene del árabe, me pregunto por qué pegó solo en México. Ah, Wikipedia dice que en Honduras también.


  3. ahh wikipedia.. como funcionamos antes…


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