Shovel comes to shove

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by Minic, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. Minic New Member

    España, español
    Hi all!

    I'm not sure about the meaning of the idiom "when the shovel comes to shove".
    Is it the same than "when push comes to shove"? Something like "cuando las cosas se pongan negras" or "a la hora de la verdad"?

    Here the context: "He is doubtful: When the shovel comes to shove, can (name) deliver?"

    "Tiene dudas: A la hora de la verdad, ¿será capaz de responder?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. SydLexia Senior Member

    London, EU
    UK English
    It sounds like some sort of wordplay. Are there any shovels in your context? What is your context?

  3. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    En Google hay un solo caso repetido diez veces. En cuanto a posibles frases en español más o menos equivalentes a "when push comes to shove", agrego una posibilidad: "cuando las papas queman/quemen" (regional) o "cuando hay/haya que sacar las castañas del fuego" (que entiendo que es más universal).
  4. Minic New Member

    España, español
    Hi, there's no more shovels... The context is an opinion about a political party and its promises when governing.
  5. BrooklynBoy

    BrooklynBoy Senior Member

    English - Nueva York
    O es un error, o es un juego de palabras, un juego de "when push comes to shove", porque no tiene sentido en sí. Si nos diera más contexto, tal vez te pudiéramos ayudar mejor.
  6. grahamcracker Senior Member

    If it is political, it combines two unrelated idioms. A political term exists: "shovel ready." It appears to combine the idiom "when push comes to shove." It makes a word play of "shovel" and "shove." The two words have similar sounds but completely unrelated meanings.

    I think it is a political ploy urging the opponent to do as he says he can.
  7. grahamcracker Senior Member

    I disagree that it is an error. It is an intentional word play---probably not a very good one---but a word play nonetheless.
  8. SydLexia Senior Member

    London, EU
    UK English
    Perhaps they have said they will 'shovel away red tape' or 'out-of-date regulations'.

  9. grahamcracker Senior Member

    That would depend upon whether it is a British or American writer and if the writing was recent or old. I was going on the assumption that the idioms originated from recent events in American politics.
  10. BrooklynBoy

    BrooklynBoy Senior Member

    English - Nueva York
    It does seem to be a play on words. Is it possible that it is a combination of THREE idiomatic expressions?

    to shovel shit
    when the shit hits the fan
    when push comes to shove

    In any case, I think the meaning is clear: when push comes to shove/where the rubber meets the road/when the shit hits the fan/when it's put up or shut up time... when the shovel comes to shove
  11. Minic New Member

    España, español
    Dear all,
    thanks a lot for your help and comments. So, if it's a word play, in order to keep it (more or less) could it be in Spanish something like:
    "En el momento en que la papeleta se le ponga difícil, ¿Podrá hacer un buen papel" ??

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