In chapter LXII of the second part of Don Quijote by Cervantes, ("Which deals with the adventure of the enchanted head, together with other trivial matters which cannot be left untold"), the Don and Sancho are invited by their host to see a magical talking head made of bronze, which, their host claimed, would truthfully answer any question put to it.

Quijote, Sancho, and the other guests all ask the head various questions, which are answered in rather banal and trite ways. Sancho, for example, asks "When will I escape from being a squire?", and the head replies "When you stop serving." In the Spanish original, Sancho then observes "no dijera más el profeta Perogrullo.", which Ormsby translates faithfully, if unimaginatively, as "“the prophet Perogrullo could have said no more.”

"Perogrullo" is a traditional comic character from Spanish literature, who is famous for making obvious remarks, like "The sun sets at sunset". Since Ormsby simply translated Sancho's statement without providing any explanation, I wondered if more modern translations gave some more context. Rutherford instead translates it as:

The great prophet Stan Streeson couldn't have done any better!

This avoids the problem of explaining who Perogrullo was, but introduces a new question. Who is "Stan Streeson"?

1 Answer 1


It’s a pun: “Stan Streeson” sounds like “stands to reason”.

Rutherford’s intention seems to have been to reflect the way that Spanish word perogrullada (a self-evident or obvious truth) derives from the name of the comic character Perogrullo or Pedro Grullo, by inventing a corresponding process in English. But I don’t think it works—although we do have words and phrases in English that derive from the names of comic characters (for example, “malapropism” or “panglossian”), it’s not plausble that a phrase made out of ordinary words like “stands to reason” could have been derived in this way.

We do have a character in English who corresponds very roughly to Perogrullo, namely Captain Obvious, but maybe Rutherford felt that he sounds too modern for the context of Quixote.

  • 1
    Yes, that must be it. It's a very weak pun though - I think "Captain Obvious" would have worked much better. Apr 30 at 16:23
  • 3
    Rather than a perfect parallel, I think Rutherford inverted the Perogrullo process, producing a name from a phrase. It's a terrible (and non-obvious) pun, but it's well within the ordinary rules of puns.
    – Grault
    Apr 30 at 22:01
  • @Grault IMO, the best puns are those that have to be worked out. That said, I agree that Capt. Obvious would have been the better choice here. Very Aristophanic.
    – cmw
    May 7 at 15:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.