Ex. “Tantos errores en el trabajo le han hecho estar en la cuerda floja.”
Translation: “He has to walk on a tightrope at work cause of all the mistakes he’s made.”
What does it mean?
It means that someone is in a risky situation, just like a tightrope walker. In English, we say that we have to walk on a tightrope, whereas in Spanish, you say that you are on a tightrope. The Spanish expression uses the verb “estar,” i.e., “Estoy en la cuerda floja en mi trabajo ahora,” meaning, “I’m in a risky situation at work right now.”
What’s the origin?
La cuerda floja means a tightrope in English. This is interesting, because it translates literally from Spanish into English as “the loose rope.” Whereas in English we think of a tightrope as being tense, in Spanish, it is conceived of as being “floja”, which also means unstable, unreliable or weak.
One more example for the road:
Ex. “Mi director del colegio me ha dicho que estoy en la cuerda floja en mis clases y que me tengo que poner las pilas.”
Translation: “My principal told me that I’m really pushing it in school and have to get my act together.”