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No llegará la sangre al río – Misunderstood Expression of the Week

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No llegará la sangre al río” or, in the past tense, “no llegó la sangre al río” means, literally, “the blood won’t reach the river” (or “the blood didn’t reach the river”). But don’t worry, this expression is not used by Spaniards in such a dramatic way! Instead, “no llegará la sangre al río” is used to express the idea or opinion that something “won’t end in a disaster”, that it “won’t come or amount to much”.

Can you guess where this expression comes from?

The origin of this week’s misunderstood expression, as you may have guessed, goes back to ancient times when villages were built near rivers for commerce and sustainability.

Indeed, back when trains didn’t exist and land transportation was slow, having access to water trading routes was a great advantage, since it enabled faster transportation as well as trade with other coastal cities. This, in turn, meant more money and goods.

Entire civilisations such as Ancient Egypt, for instance, could never have existed if they hadn’t developed near rivers such as the Nile (although the origin of our expression doesn’t go so far back in time, of course!).

Due to the riverside location of most villages and cities, battles and wars for conquest were often fought near rivers. Thus, when an army laid siege to a city, which used to be located in a high zone for a better defence, the blood of the dead and wounded ran downhill until it reached the water, dyeing it red.

If the skirmish was light, however, and did not end in a disaster, the blood did not reach the river. With time, riverside battles became less common, but the expression continued to be used in a figurative way.

Can you think of a context in which the phrase “no llegará la sangre al río” could be used nowadays? Think of a sentence and leave us a comment below!

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