Dar atole con el dedo

Let’s look closely at the language in an online comment that features the Mexican expression dar atole con el dedo.

O sea1 cambian el paradigma2 de mover vehículos a mover personas pero no le quitan un sólo centímetro3 al automóvil particular4. Los ciclistas hemos utilizado5 el carril del trolebús de eje6 central por años de ida y vuelta, siempre volteando sobre el hombro para que no te aplaste7 un trolebúsero gandalla8, (la mayoría no lo son9, pero de que los hay, me han tocado), y ahora qué?, gastarán 150 mdp en pintar bicicletitas10 en el piso11 y quitar los únicos dos letreros que prohiben el uso de ese carril a las bicicletas12 y que por cierto colocaron13 hace apenas un año14?? Eso no es un cambio de paradigma, eso [es dar] atole con el dedo15 como siempre, que hagan un carril exclusivo para bicicletas de ida y uno de vuelta confinados y a un costado del trolebús, le quitan un carril a los autos en una avenida de 4 carriles, pero se agregan 2 carriles ciclistas, eso es un cambio de paradigma y una forma de facilitar el traslado en vehículos ecológicos16.

1The comment starts with the discourse marker o sea, which is used aggressively here to mean: ‘so you’re saying that’.

2El paradigma is masculine like many words ending in -ma, for example, el sistema and el programa. However, we have la forma, la alarma and la plataforma.

3Un solo centímetro means ‘(not) even a single centimeter’.

4The Spanish word particular often means ‘private’ or ‘individual’. Private lessons are clases particulares.

5Notice the first person plural form in los ciclistas hemos utilizado. This form indicates that the writer herself is a cyclist. Ciclista, like other -ista nouns, is masculine unless referring to a group of female cyclists.

6Eje central is a major north-south boulevard in Mexico City. In other contexts, eje means ‘axis’.

7Aplastar is a cynically humorous way here of saying ‘squash’, ‘run over’.

8A trolebusero is a trolleybus driver, just as a microbusero drives a microbús. Gandalla is an informal word meaning ‘bad person’, ‘asshole’.

9In la mayoría no lo son, the lo refers back to gandalla, meaning that not all trolebuseros are gandallas. Note that mayoría takes a plural verb here.

10The use of the suffix -ito in bicicletitas expresses a dismissive attitude towards the bicycle markings painted on the lane.

11Remember that piso means both floor (indoors) and ground (outdoors).

12In que prohiben el uso de ese carril a los ciclistas, we can see that prohibir uses a to indicate who is being prohibited from something. Compare this with the rather different structure in English: that prohibit cyclists from using that lane. This same formula works with the antonym permitir: permitir la entrada a alguien, allow someone to enter.

13The verb colocar here means ‘place (an object in its location)’, ‘install’.

14The expression hace apenas un años means ‘barely a year ago’.

15The expression dar atole con el dedo means ‘placate’, ‘do the minimum necessary to stem complaints’. The metaphor is that of a mother wetting her finger with the drink (atole) and offering her wet finger to her child. This expression is commonly heard in the context of politicians throwing a bone to their constituents, satisfying them with small favors rather than delivering sustantial improvements.

16Vehículos ecológicos are ‘green vehicles’, designed with environmental concerns in mind.