Cross purposes (to go at)

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by LaMoon, Mar 8, 2009.

  1. Hi, I need hel for the translation of the expression to go at cross purposes.


    "Maybe going to the bank was the mistake. Who would expect a sign from that? But perhaps she was going at cross purposes all the time, knowing that nothing could deter her from the decision she had made".

    This is a woman who has decided to commit suicide, but is walking in the streets looking for a sign not to do it. I understand the meaning... like it is contradictory/inconsistent that she looks for this sign if she has already made her mind, but I would like someone to suggest an expression in Spanish, or a native speaker to go deeper in the interpretation of this expression. Is it colloquial? Is it a very well-known/fixed expression? I would like to find a good equivalent.

    My attempt (sorry I have no accent marks here):
    "[...] Pero quiza se estuviese engaNando a si misma todo el tiempo ... "

    Is this "engaNarse a si misma" going too far?

  2. Chez Senior Member

    English English
    To be at cross-purposes (more usually than 'to go') is a very well-known expression and is not particularly colloquial. It is when two people (or two sides – in an argument) thinking they are talking/arguing about the same thing, but actually they are talking about and understanding two different things.

    A woman is hoping her boyfriend will propose marriage to her, but he has just lost his job and feels he must tell her the bad news:

    Him: Darling, I need to talk to you.
    Her: (hopefully) Yes?
    Him: This may come as a bit of a surprise to you.
    Her: Not at all, I've been waiting for it.
    Him: You have?
    Her: Yes, I've been expecting it from your behaviour.
    Him: Why, what have I done?
    etc. etc.

    She is talking about the hoped-for proposal. He is talking about losing his job. They are talking at cross-purposes and, for the moment, the conversation seems to make sense although it's a bit surprising to him.

    In your example, the woman is going at cross-purposes with herself: she knows she doesn't want to find a sign, yet she is still looking for a sign. She has two opposing 'purposes (suicide and finding a sign). I don't think this is a very common use of the expression, but it can make sense.

    I think you need a native Spanish speakeer to help you with a translation.
  3. Thank you so much! So what do you think about my translation as "fooling herself"?
  4. Chez Senior Member

    English English
    Yes, I think 'fooling herself' is quite good.

    Or, just an idea, would any construction with 'contrary' (contrario/a) work in Spanish?

    In English, 'Perhaps she was just being knowingly contrary all the time' might be similar – 'contrary' gets across the idea of doing two opposing things.
  5. Actually yes! "contradecirse a uno mismo" --> se estaba contradiciendo a si misma :)

    Thank you so much!

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