Ex. “Manu es un vacilón. Le encanta tomar el pelo a todo el mundo”
Translation: “Manu is a jokester. He likes teasing everyone.”
What does it mean?
Literally, “tomar el pelo” means to take or grab somebody’s hair. However, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines it as to make fun of somebody with compliments, promises or praises. The English equivalent is: “to pull someone’s leg”, “fool around” or “kid around” with someone.
What’s the origin?
The origin is diverse. Some people say it comes from Ancient Roman and Greek times, when people’s hair were regarded as symbols of beauty and respect, and thus could not be touched. Grabbing someone’s hair was considered offensive. Other theories point to the army as the origin, when prisoners’ heads were shaved for supposedly hygienic purposes. Lastly, it may come from “humilladeros” which are places in the entrance of Spanish towns where people were shaved and ridiculed in public for breaking the law.
One more example for the road:
Ex. “Ahora que Juan ha crecido, ya nadie le toma el pelo.”
Translation: “Now that Juan has grown, nobody dares fool around with him.”