To Drown in a Glass of Water

Woman filling up glass of water in sink.

Ahogarse en un vaso de agua (Spanish)

To drown in a glass of water (English)

The Spanish language is rich in refranes, or sayings. There are so many that the Real Academia Española—the institution that regulates the correct use of the Spanish language—had to stop publishing its specialized dictionary of sayings because it couldn’t keep up all the different sayings out there.

Refranes can convey complex ideas in a handful of words using irony and creative imagery. Today’s idiom is no exception; just imagine someone drowning in a glass of water. A person can drown in the ocean, in the middle of a storm, where no one can save you. Can they really drown in a glass of water? 

Spanish speakers use this idiom to refer to someone who gets overwhelmed by ordinary circumstances. The person may not see it, but the situation they are in is not as dire as they think. In other words, they can’t see that they’re not alone in the ocean, simply in a glass of water.