Where is the fifth pine tree?

If you wanted to say something was far away, many of us would have used the word for ‘far’ in Spanish, “LEJOS”. 

“It’s very far away” could be beautifully rendered as ” Está muy lejos”. that would be fine and everyone would understand you.

However, how would you feel if someone told you that they lived at the fifth pine tree.

A very common expression in Spanish is to describe something far away as being “en el quinto pino.” (At the fifth pine tree)

 

 

image
Not the same pine trees but something very similar. (Thank you, Jackie, for lovely photo )

 

Estar en el quinto pino

It’s “in the back of beyond”, it’s “miles away”, it’s “in the middle of nowhere” etc, could all be rendered in Spanish as “está en el quinto pino” or “It’s at the fifth pine tree.”

But why, oh why, on earth would anyone refer to a fifth pine tree?

And where is that fifth pine tree? And what about the first, second, third and fourth?

After quizzing many Spanish friends over the years about this curious expression, I was able to do some serious research and the solution to the puzzle was a bit more mundane than I would have liked.

The story goes that Ferdinand V of Spain (1686-1746) ordered 5 magnificent pine trees to be planted in Madrid. These trees became geographical reference points for the inhabitants of the city. The first pine was located in the Paseo del Prado, according to the site, Secretos de Madrid.

The Paseo del Prado has always been one of the central reference points in Madrid.  The subsequent four trees were planted equidistantly, the last one, the fifth pine tree,  (el quinto pino) was planted where, in those days, was then considered on the outskirts of the city, far away from the city centre. (That neighbourhood now is referred to as ‘Nuevos Ministerios’).

 

 

 

puentecillo_in_paseo_del_prado2c_17th_c
Madrid,  in urgent need of some lovely pine trees!

 

For that reason, the area became popular as a meeting place for young lovers, who could meet there discreetly out of sight of the general population and hubbub of the town.

What a lovely romantic origin of the expression.

Today, however, the expression “está en el quinto pino” generally has negative connotations and is usually used with an exasperated tone!

Examples:

No había aparcamiento! He tenido que aparcar en el quinto pino. There was no parking space. I had to park “at the fifth pine tree!”

No quiero ir a ese restaurante: ¡está en el quinto pino! I don’t want to go to that restaurant; it’s “at the fifth pine tree!”

Can you think of a context or situation in your own life when you could have used this expression?

For other expressions see: Estar a dos velas and As good as gold (Ser más buena que el pan)

 

 

 

 

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