FOR the last three weeks, Paul Whitelock has been de Rodríguez. Intrigued by this widely-used Spanish expression to refer to a man who has temporarily been left at home on his own while his wife and kids have gone away, he decided to investigate.

Estar de Rodríguez is one of those phrases that’s tricky to translate.  According to the Real Academia Española “de Rodríguez”  is a colloquial expression  for “un hombre casado que se queda trabajando mientras su familia está fuera, normalmente de veraneo. Ejemplo: Anda, está, se queda de Rodríguez” (a married man who stays behind working while his family is away, usually on their summer holiday. eg “Hey, he is here, he’s de Rodríguez!”), but the RAE offers no translation.

The Collins Spanish-English Dictionary, meanwhile, translates it as “to be left on one’s own”, which is a rather weak effort, that doesn’t really cover the full sense of the expression. In my experience there is much more of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink connotation to it.  “Footloose and fancy-free” might be closer, or, as Basenjgirl, a pseudonym for a young lady in the USA who posted this on an internet website:  “Lo que decimos en EE.UU.: When the cat’s away, the mouse will play!”

Fenixpollo, from Arizona, USA, wryly noted on the same website:  “My wife and children are going on vacation next week.  I’m going to be a bachelor for a week” and is clearly looking forward to it…!

But who was Rodríguez?

According to Cenriquet in Andalucía: “El origen del término está en los últimos años del franquismo, cuando la clase media española comenzó a tomarle el gusto a eso de veranear. Las mujeres y los niños se iban de vacaciones dejando al marido solo en la gran ciudad. Desconozco si ese fenómeno se ha dado o no en otros países.” (This term originates from the last years of General Franco’s rule, when the Spanish middle clases started to go on holiday in the summer.  Wives and children would go on holiday and leave their husbands alone in the big city. I don’t know whether this phenomenon occurred in other countries.)

Is it only used for men?

If so, is there an equivalent expression for women?  Many say it is men-only, but Laura, a young Spanish lady, thinks things have changed:  “Yo, Laura con novio de vacaciones, ¡¡estoy de Rodriguez!! BIENNN. Los tiempos han cambiado y ese era un término no utilizado por las mujeres antes, porque la sociedad era hípermachista, pero ahora, yo y algunas amigas lo utilizamos hasta que salga uno para mujeres, que dudo que salga, pero bueno. Yo lo utilizaría!!” (I’m Laura,my boyfriend is away on holiday and I’m de Rodríguez!  OKAY-Y-Y.  Times have changed. This was an expression not used by women previously, because Spanish society was super “macho”, but now, I and some other friends are going to use it until women get an expression of our own, but I doubt that will happen, so … I would use it!”

Back to the question, who was Rodríguez?  Diquembe from Chile asks:  “mmm…pero ¿por qué de Rodríguez?… ¿por qué no es Fernández, Pérez, etc  etc ….?” (mmm …. but why Rodríguez?  Why not Fernández, Pérez, etc …?).  It’s tempting to think that it might be Rodríguez because that’s a common surname.  However, the most common surname in Spain is García, so that’s that theory out of the window!

An English friend of mine told me the name comes from a TV comedy: “One of my Montejaque friends told me several years ago that ‘Rodriguez’ was a comedy TV series in which the lead role was ‘Rodríguez’. It was about a man whose wife had left him.

Oh, well, whatever … Yo …  estoy de Rodríguez for another week, although I’ve been a very good boy. After all I’ve only been married 10 months. And anyway, my wife’s son is staying with me!

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  1. The expression certainly occurs in the scripts of the (Generalitat sponsored) Catalan course “Digui! Digui! designed to teach Spanish speakers to learn Catalan.

    Certainly the habit of Spanish people to take the family to the beach or the rural family home for the summer and the man to visit at weekends only seems fairly common. Leaving the man alone in the big city Sunday seems widespread!!

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