It’s one of those words I’ve heard all of my life. Although until one of our recent road trips, I had all but forgotten about it to be quite honest. We were driving to California, past New Mexico somewhere, when all of the sudden the deejay on the radio started saying pellejo over and over again.
It really took me back to all of those times I’d heard my parents, my uncles, my aunts, their friends, and so many others use this palabra in Spanish.
Back then all it would make me think about was the papada on a turkey. You know, the turkey neck. Because after all pellejo in it of itself is basically referencing one’s skin.
I told Anjelica about it and we had a little conversation about what the word actually means when it’s used in references like: me salve por el puro pellejo; sali, pero con el puro pellejo.
We both agreed on the meaning in the end. Basically that you avoided something “by the seam of your pants” or “just barely.” The idea being that you just avoided or completed something, but pretty much just by a stroke of good luck or something.
Now if you’re looking for a more technical definition, here’s some of what WordReference has to offer:
– Piel quitada del cuerpo del animal.
– Piel de los animales.
– Toda la lana que se esquila de un animal.
UrbanDictionay does not yet have a definition in their database for this word.
Should I go in an add one?
“Con los Pellejos del Gato” a song by Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado, either means, as you suggest, you avoid a bad outcome by “the skin of the cat” or it may be a variation on the English idiom “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” maybe both. It’s probably a very clever use of both idioms, but I don’t know enough Spanish to figure it out.
I was trying to figure out what it meant and my google search led me here. Otherwise, I think google has no clue. Given the title of the song, Google Translate gives up on both “pellejos” and “gato.” hah hah.
It sounds comparable “by the skin of my teeth” in English, meaning “just barely.”
When I didn’t study and just barely passed a test, I passed by the skin of my teeth.
When my car ran out of gas and I had to run the rest of the way to work, but I clocked in on time? I made it by the skin of my teeth.