Spanish-isms

May 5, 2012 by

I love the Spanish language. It’s beautiful, rhythmical, sexy and poetic. It’s a relatively easy language to learn and speak once you get comfortable with el subjuntivo and imperfecto de subjuntivo. It is and has been an extremely useful language for me to have under my belt in all my traveling and living abroad.
One of the things I love about sinking my teeth into a new language is learning its isms, its ticks, its quirks. 
Here are 5 of my favourites in Spanish:
(and some photos)
Mercardo Libertad, Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico

San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico

San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico

Angangueo, Mexico

Angangueo, Mexico

Chihuahua, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

1. Are you excited or horny?
For an English speaker learning to speak Spanish, saying “estoy exitado” might seem intuitive when trying to express excitement. Unfortunately, you just announced that you are horny.
2. Mamá/mama | Papa/papá/papa
This is subtle. Whenever there is an accent over a letter in Spanish, that syllable is pronounced with emphasis. Words can be spelled the same, but an added accent to one letter can change the meaning of the word entirely. For example, mamá means mum, but mama means breast. And my favourite:  papá means dad while papa means potato (and Papa means pope, capitalized and no accent). My Spanish teacher in Mexico told us a story of a non-Spanish speaking Catholic guy who visited Mexico when the Pope was there and ran through the streets yelling “¡Viva el papa (Papa)!” … which, without the accent, could also be “Long live the potato!”
3. Años/anos
Whenever I write in Spanish to my Latin American friends, I either have to search for the code (Alt+0241) to make an ñ or I just write it as n. It’s always easier to just write n. However if you are talking about años (years/age) and you write anos, you actually just said anuses. I didn’t know this for a very long time, so whenever I would write “¿Cuántos anos tienes?”, I was actually asking “How many anuses do you have?”
When I finally figured this out, I told a Chilean friend, and he told me that little kids often ask each other this on their birthdays. 
4. Embarrassed or pregnant???
This is another good one, and everyone (even men) learning to speak Spanish makes this mistake at least a handful of times before the meaning sticks. Saying “estoy embarazada” would seem like the correct way for a female to express embarrassment, right? Wrong. She just broadcasted her pregnancy. Congratulations.
5. Cojer…
Depending on where you are in the world, this verb takes on different meanings. In Spain, it is delightfully useful. It more or less means to get. To get the bus, to get groceries, you get the idea. However, in Mexico, it means (pardon me) to fuck. It’s really rude in Mexico. So when I had just moved to Mexico after spending a lot of time in Spain, I’ll never forget the looks on my Mexican friends’ faces when I told them I was going to “cojer el camion”… fuck the bus.
Do you speak any other languages? What are your favourite isms?

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4 Comments

  1. PS- Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  2. Your favorite Spanish-isms are very similar to ones I used to get a kick out of Italian class!

  3. i would want to living in spain 🙂 i like it but ı have never been there 🙂

  4. I just adore the Spanish language 🙂 I’ve lived in Spain, Costa Rica, and Mexico and so I had certainly become familiar with slang in each of those countries; however, last month I had the chance to get to know a Peruvian and now I can say I know some Peruvian Spanish too. It’s amazing how many differences there are from Spanish speaking country to country…not to mention those subtle differences like accent marks and pronunciations 🙂

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