If you’re looking for a phrase that captures an insignificant cost-cutting measure, here’s the perfect expression: el chocolate del loro.
The origin of the expression goes back to the 18th century when the indianos – Spaniards who returned to Spain after having made a fortune in Latin America – would dazzle their party guests with chocolate. Even though it was an expensive commodity at the time, the indianos were able to afford the luxury of setting aside a small portion of chocolate for their pet parrot (another American import).
But when the domestic economy began to decline and the indianos themselves were faced with the prospect of going broke, rather than deprive themselves of parties with chocolate, they deprived their feathery friends.
Of course, the indianos eventually did lose their fortunes, failing to see that what needed trimming wasn’t el chocolate del loro but their bigger expenditures.
In a recent article published on Público’s website, Antonio Avendaño writes about how politicians have been recently using the expression as their argument against cutting salaries of upper management and reigning in politicians’ travel expenditures:
Suele sostenerse que los sueldos de los directivos, comparados con el multimillonario descubierto que tiene la banca, es el chocolate del loro. El argumento del chocolate del loro es en realidad el mismo que acaba de utilizar el presidente del Tribunal Supremo, Carlos Dívar, al calificar de miseria los casi 20.000 euros que se ha gastado en viajes privados alojándose en hoteles de lujo de Marbella con cargo al presupuesto del Consejo General del Poder Judicial. Bien, pues yo lo que quiero es saber es esto: cuánto se gasta el maldito loro en chocolate.
In this extract, the journalist says that upper management always maintain that their salaries are peanuts compared to what the bank has as deficit. He goes on to cite a recent example where the president of the Supreme Court said that the 20,000€ he spent on a personal trip to Marbella out of the General Counsel’s budget was just chump change.
In a letter to the El País editor, a reader also notes that politicians resort to using el chocolate del loro when someone calls for a cut in politicians’ salaries, official car expenses, special class travel, and receptions or parties.
And in Malawi recently, President Joyce Banda announced a 30% cut in her salary as well as her vice president’s as part of the government’s austerity measures. But a majority of the Malawian people saw the cuts as a drop in the bucket, or el chocolate del loro considering how much the President spends on travel and her security entourage.
El chocolate del loro may also be perfectly used in everyday life too.
My supposedly energy-conscious father is always telling me off for not turning off the lights but then turns around and buys a high energy consumption air conditioning system. Or when my aunt went on a diet, she simply removed the olive from her martini.
- Me voy a poner a dieta, Sergio.
– ¿Qué vas a hacer? ¿Ir al médico a que te aconseje?
– No, voy a empezar quitando la aceituna del vermú.
The lights, the olive – that’s el chocolate del loro.
How have you heard the expression used? Let me know in the comments!
I’m a future something, probably a coming architect and linguist. I’m a twin son of a Madrileña and will guide you through the worthwhile Spanish expressions.
Image Credits: gaelx