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El preso número nueve - Question

 

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  #1  
Old November 14, 2012, 06:31 PM
Markhillis Markhillis is offline
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El preso número nueve - Question

This question has bugged me for ages.
I have always loved Joan Baez' version of El Preso Numero Nueve.
As I have studied Spanish I understand all of it but I cant wrap my head around the grammar of the very first line:
El preso numero nueve, ya lo van a confesar...
I know that they are taking him to confession but it seems to translate
"now they are going to confess it"
Can someone help me with this?
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  #2  
Old November 14, 2012, 07:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markhillis View Post
This question has bugged me for ages.
I have always loved Joan Baez' version of El Preso Numero Nueve.
As I have studied Spanish I understand all of it but I cant wrap my head around the grammar of the very first line:
El preso numero nueve, ya lo van a confesar...
I know that they are taking him to confession but it seems to translate
"now they are going to confess it"
Can someone help me with this?
I don't know this song, and perhaps the line needs more context, but I assume coming from Joan Baez it is a protest song. If it is a commentary of corrupt harsh prison systems, then the line most likely means: now they are going to make him confess whether the prisoner commited the crime or not. It will be confession via cohersion or torture I assume.
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Old November 14, 2012, 07:17 PM
Markhillis Markhillis is offline
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No, it's actually an old folk ballad.
He is being taken to confession because he killed his wife and her lover.
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Old November 14, 2012, 07:17 PM
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I just saw the lyrics of the song, and simply means they are going to give him the sacrament of confession as in "administer the last sacraments" before the execution. The guy is not afraid nor remorseful of having killed his wife and lover... and so he confess it to the priest... in the morning the guy is getting executed...
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Old November 14, 2012, 07:20 PM
Markhillis Markhillis is offline
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But doesn't "van a confesar" mean THEY are going to confess?
The context is either that he is going to confess, or that they are
taking him to confession.
I'm confused on the grammar.
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  #6  
Old November 14, 2012, 07:25 PM
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He's the one confessing, but to a priest, not the police, as he has already been condemned to death.
This "they" is just some impersonal formula used colloquially.

Oh, by the way, original lyrics say "Al preso número nueve ya lo van a confesar", which makes much more sense.
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Last edited by AngelicaDeAlquezar; November 15, 2012 at 07:33 PM. Reason: Added comment on original lyrics. (And corrected spelling)
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Old November 15, 2012, 07:31 PM
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Right, Angelica is spot on (as usual)... "The prisoner number nine is about to be taken for his confession"...

I take your confusion is that literally it says "they are going to confess him", but what it means is that "he is about to do his confession [to a priest] to be ready for his execution."

DRAE gives
confesar 4. tr. Dicho de un confesor: Oír al penitente en el sacramento de la penitencia.

That is, while no "priest" is explicitly mentioned (as the Spanish "lo van a confesar" is "impersonal") it is implied that the "confessor" is going "to hear the penitent in his confession".

(Hope this fully clarifies, but let us know if otherwise!)
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Old November 15, 2012, 11:28 PM
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Thanks for all of your input. I understand what you are saying...just wish it fit more neatly into my spanish grammar "box" but thats not the way it works is it?
If you get a chance youtube it sometime and give a listen...really catchy.
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Old November 16, 2012, 12:28 AM
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Yes, it is an excellent song and she (Joan B) is definitely putting some emotion to it...

By the way, in English you also have the same sense for "confess"

4. (of a priest) to hear the confession of (a person). (Random House)

So, if I am a priest and "I am going to confess you" I am not going to tell you any of my sins... but I am going to hear yours...

The song would be "they are going to confess him"...

Probably, more than the "grammar" aspect of the sentence, may be the usage of the word in this sense... (At any rate, I hope it helps!)
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Old November 16, 2012, 10:20 AM
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Oh wow...I just got it. I've never heard it used that way but now it makes Perfect sense to me. Thank you so much.
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