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drpeg
10-26-2017, 07:15 PM
In my mystery novel, two of my characters are a a 30-year-old male investigator, Nicholas, and his 18-year-old Latino (Mexico-born) "wheel man" Miguel (Miguel does the tailing of suspects and other duties). I want to occasionally have Miguel use Mexican slang or speak in Spanish. In the following, Miguel is reporting to Nicholas about a suspect, Guzman. Here is what I have, but I'm not sure the Spanish is correct:

“Landlord’s got some cop buddy busting in during the night for parole checks,” Miguel said.
“Parole checks?” (Nicholas is speaking.)
“Guzman spent time in la pinta for selling drugs.”
“Big operator?”
Miguel shook his head, his cowlick waving in the breeze. “La nada. Wanted to make easy money for the family and took a hard fall. The day after Guzman’s released, his wife’s capped. And now he’s disappeared.”

In response to Nicholas's "Big operator?," I want Miguel to be saying "Little nothing." Somewhere in the past I thought I came across the phrase "La nada" to mean "Little nothing," but now I can't find any verification of that. In various online Spanish-English dictionaries I've found:
"no es nadie" to mean "he's nobody (that matters)" and

"Es un don nadie aunque se cree muy importante" to mean "He is a nobody, even though he may think that he is very important" and

"Olvida eso, Úl no es nada" to mean "Forget that, he is nothing."

But since I speak not a speck of Spanish, I have no idea why there seems to be three different constructions for "he's nobody," and I don't know which would be correct for Miguel to say ("no es nadie" or ""Es un don nadie" or "Úl no es nada). Or, is there some expression that better gets across "(He's a) little nothing," so that Miguel's response is parallel to Nicholas's question (the "little" for "big")? Also, since Nicholas isn't speaking in a complete sentence, I'd prefer that Miguel didn't either. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Jason
10-26-2017, 07:39 PM
My Spanish is rusty at the moment, but for some reason the phrase:

No me importa

comes to mind. Which essentially means It doesn't bother me - it's of no importance. So, conversely, my logic is that the phrase for your situation would be:

No le importa

He's not important. But that's just me, and usually means it's not right! :)

blacbird
10-27-2017, 09:14 PM
"La nada" literally means "the nothing", which strikes me as a fairly useful phrase, but I don't know how colloquial it is. "No es nadie" likewise sounds good, as suggested. For me as reader, and reasonably good at Spanish, either would suffice.

caw

drpeg
10-28-2017, 12:56 AM
Thank you both. I went on a Spanish-English forum, and they thought that since I was talking about a drug-dealer, something like "De poca monta" (small-time, as in small-time drug dealer) would work better than saying "He's a nobody." So I have:

“Big operator?”

Miguel gave a sharp shake his head, his cowlick waving in the breeze, waving the notion away. “De poca monta.”

Small-time.

“Wanted to make easy money for the family and took a hard fall,” Miguel said. “The day after Guzman’s released, his wife’s capped. And now he’s disappeared.”

(From the context of the story, it should be clear that the "small-time" is Nicholas's internal dialogue.)