A Post on Language

Hi, wonderful readers!  I’ve been hiding and having little and/or big crises, depending on your point of view.  What happens to me when I simply can’t deal is that I see random internet-y things and some will make me laugh uncontrollably, while others will make me cry.  Darling fellow writer and blogger extraordinaire Thyra10 shared this video on Facebook and I cried and cried – even though it’s actually heartwarming.  I had no choice but to share it on my own Facebook wall… and then this happened:

Facebook face palm

Even though I don’t understand Spanish… ? !

Um… WHAT?!  Many of you know that I speak Spanish fluently, and my friend on Facebook knows this too.  I was hoping she meant to type “Swedish” instead of “Spanish” and auto-correct failed her.  Sadly, that was not the case.  She truly thought that the video she had just watched was in Spanish.  Readers not from the U.S., please, don’t make fun of us.  I assure y’all that nobody else made this mistake.

A few days after, Thyra10 posted this article about Scandinavian languages and I laughed, and laughed… because even though I only speak two languages well, and butcher a third and fourth to pieces, I understand the fun she was poking at the Scandinavians and their languages AND their dialects.  It’s fascinating that we all seem to have the same problems around the world.  I encounter it at home: hubby’s family is from El Salvador and I’m from Puerto Rico.  Many words are different even though both countries speak Spanish.  Apparently in El Salvador, a “chele,” is an eye-booger (yeah, I don’t have another word for them in English), and “chele,” to me, is a meaningless word.  Ask me what I think of when I see a Hyundai Azera.  Here’s a hint: “acera” in Spanish is sidewalk.  Of course, Spanish in the Americas has been influenced by native languages, but Spanish in Spain also has its share of influences, words like “reloj” (used interchangeably for clock and watch), “pared” (wall), “almohada” (pillow), “nube” (cloud) are all from Arabic, for example.  Yet, I could probably hold a very slow conversation with somebody who spoke Portuguese or Italian… as long as my Portuguese friend remembers that if she says she is “embarazada,” I’m going to think she’s pregnant, as opposed to embarrassed.

That brings me to the one thing we’ve been fighting here in the United States, a lot!  The U.S. does NOT have an official language.  NONE.  It has a de facto language, the one we all agree to speak, and that would be English.  The Federal government has never declared one language for the whole nation, probably because there are so many languages spoken among American Indians.  Actually, that’s my own speculation, not a fact, but considering that the U.S. is an amalgamation of many territories throughout its history, choosing just one language must not have been very high on the list of things to do.  I’m one of those who thinks that to live in a country, one ought to know at least a little of that country’s language.  But, I make a concession that to lose one’s own language while learning another, is a sure way to lose one’s identity… or gain a new one.  After all, us Puerto Ricans do not go parking our cars as others who speak Spanish might.  While the correct translation of “to park the car” would be “estacionar el automóvil,” it’s way easier to simply say “parquear el carro.”  Roll your R’s at the back of the throat, like they do in French 😀

I was going to wax poetic about culture and language, but then I remembered I’m going through some rough patches and I’d rather laugh than cry.  So here are some of the funny things we Puerto Ricans say that will fit any occasion.  These are idiomatic expressions (they have a cultural meaning as well) so my translations are as close as I can get within the confines of English.  Have fun!

  • Estoy como sapo de letrina – I’m like a toad in a latrine (said when one is full after a meal)
  • Cuando la rana eche pelo – when the frog grows hair (said when one is waiting to buy something expensive)
  • La piña está agria – the pineapple is sour (when one has no money – yeah, I don’t get it either; aren’t pineapples sour already?)
  • ¡Me cago en diez! – I shit on ten! (exclaimed when you’ve had it, but ten of what, who knows?)
  • ¡Bendito! – You poor thing! (actually it translates to “blessed,” but said with the connotation that you feel bad for the other person)
  • Bochinche – gossip, a very Puerto Rican word
  • Más jincho que nalga de monja – whiter than a nun’s bun (yeah, THAT bun)
  • Irse para el carajo – to go to the “carajo.”  Nobody knows where it is, but it’s not pleasant.  You can send people there or just exclaim it out loud, and it’s usually followed by…
  • ¡Coño! – that’s a bad word we learned from the Spaniards

  • Del lobo un pelo – from the wolf, a hair.  When you don’t get the complete result or the desired result, only some, but it’s better than none (my mom says this a lot)
  • Más perdido que un juey bisco – more lost than a cross eyed crab (never seen one)

These are fun!  There’s a whole list here, but I’d love to here your funny words or sayings in English or your own mother tongue.


10 thoughts on “A Post on Language

  1. I truly love the “more lost than a cross-eyed crab!” At my last job we had a phrase that could sum up utter disbelief in two syllables. CAN YA?!?! — pronounced as “Kenya” with liberal amounts of scorn and disbelief in the inflection. Keep in mind that we worked in IT support, so we were often stunned into disbelieving states by our users. Thanks for sharing!

    • IT sometimes gets a bad rap. At my last job, the IT peeps were truly wonderful – the best I’ve ever worked with. At the job before that, IT was a one-man show who thought he worked for NSA or something. He didn’t, so it was really annoying… particularly when us lowly regular workers wanted to install something other than the bane that is IE and needed an act of Congress in order to do so… However, I sometimes understand IT’s exasperation, especially when you get asked silly things like help with replacing the yellow ink cartridge even with the instruction plainly visible in two places. That’s when you say “CAN YA?!” Amiright?

  2. I am still wondering how that person could confuse Swedish with Spanish? I am assuming it’s Swedish because I darn well know it’s not Spanish.

    Now, juey bisco? Crab is juey? I always thought buey or huey is an ox. En Mexico, huey es muy usado como groseria (por ejemplo: pinche huey, como saludo: que onda, huey? Como una exclamacion de sorpresa o resignacion: “ay huey” So, when you say: Mas perdido que un juey bizco, I picture a crossed eyed ox going around and around the field…and not a crab. But that’s us Mexicans and our idioms. Aren’t idioms fun? If you need a good laugh, I recommend Picardia Mexicana. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
    Saludos desde San Diego, CA.

    • I think we have a little difference between dialects going on here. Huey is an ox, juey (at least in Puerto Rico) is a crab. There’s a place in Puerto Rico called Isla de Jueyes… and it’s not full of oxen, but it IS full of crabs 🙂

      Nah, the video was in Norwegian, which Thyra10 explains is close to Swedish – but if my Facebook friend had confused Norwegian with Swedish, it would have at least been closer than Spanish! Yikes!

      Un abrazote, Adriana. Gracias mil por leer mis despistes.

  3. There must be some cosmic whammy coming down because I too have hit the crapstorm and made a little nest for myself in woe-is-me land for the past few days! Here’s to hoping we all wade out of it soon 🙂

    Living 20+ years in San Diego my Spanish is – finally – no longer the Spanglish I arrived with. Nor do I only know “the dirty words”. Although…I still use them quite often on the 5 freeway! Besides, “kiss my ass” sounds absolutely lovely in Spanish and when paired with a dazzling smile and a quick exit, it’s delightful. The very few who question, I tell to google it…then get another snicker when I think of their face when they realize what I said ;P
    Yes, I have an evil side…but if I’ve bothered to tell you to kiss my a$$, I consider it deserved.

    Back to languages. My bestie is from Bangkok but moved to US as a tween. She speaks beautiful English with nary an accent. Much better than myself with my often lazy English, California idioms and flat California cum Midwestern accent. But idioms and phrases did not translate for her – nor did tact – but led to some great laughs. When we both worked retail during college, dear sweet Annie didn’t give a second thought to telling someone “wow, your feet are big” (not a man, so not a compliment) or when asked for a smaller size dress, pants, etc, she could be heard saying ” huh, I would’ve thought you wore the bigger size”, “yellow is soooo not your color”, “did you know they were going to do that to your hair.”
    *snort. wealthy women don’t like hearing that* lol.
    She never said these things out of meanness, which is probably what kept her from getting decked, her tact got lost in translation and left most recipients stunned – myself included.
    My absolute fave is Annie’s mixed idiom “it’s all water under the burning bridge.” We once had a nasty argument which left us not speaking for days. I came home from work to a message with that mixed up phrase being the only thing she said and hung up. I smiled. Then realized how stupid the argument was. 30some years later through arguments, bad marriages, cancer, firings, unemployments, bad break ups, living on separate coasts/differ countries…that phrase on a voice mail or text is a signal one of us needs the other and is too proud to call/ask, for whatever reason.

    I have no clue what my point started out as, I rambled! Surprise. Maybe just have fun with whatever language you speak…or butcher trying to learn 🙂

    • I’ve met so many people from so many places while living in New Jersey and Maryland… I can understand the little (and not so little) cultural differences between you and your bestie. Even while living in Puerto Rico, we have a large Cuban population, and their culture has mixed with ours somewhat but it’s still distinctly Cuban. I moved when I was in my mid-teens, so I missed out on having a more in-depth experience of my own country.

      Anyway, sometimes I butcher English completely. I’ve been known to say “serious as a grave,” even writing it on some of my fanfics! *head desk* Oh, yeah… my friend would not stop laughing when I said it out loud – but she has terrible grammar, so I’ve made fun of her plenty. 😀

  4. Oh my! I thought “Pittsburghese” was bad! After all the years of Spanish I took in HS & college, I can’t speak it at all, but I can translate it! Those sayings are hilarious! It is true; we don’t have an official language in the US, but once upon a time, the “King’s” English was spoken by the very early settlers. It devolved into what we now know as English, but it’s really pidgin English, and it’s pretty horrible in some regions of the US. I’d hate to be an immigrant and have to learn it because there’s no real way to learn “American” English!
    I can relate to the rough patches you’re having as I’m having my own & dreading today. I’d like to stay in bed with a pillow over my head, but it’s not happening. Mi benito nube con un silver lining will arrive soon to distract me from all things sad. I hope you have someone whom you can count on to do the same! Blessings & peace to you!

    • Thank you, hon! It’s been difficult, but I’m hanging in there. At least we’re all healthy. Everything else is just, meh… It’ll get better.

      You know, since you mentioned “Pittsburghese,” I just wanted to say that I’ve found great things throughout the states where I’ve visited, and sometimes they have to do with language and what things are called, other times they just are. I love to travel, so finding things to “awe” about is my raison d’etre (okay, I can’t spell French). It’s interesting that little pastries shaped to look like KKK members have a completely different connotation and meaning in Spain. And whoever hasn’t tried shoofly pie from Pennsylvania is missing out.

  5. great post! oh, the shit you must deal with in FL. I cant tell you how happy I am not to live in Miami with my Cuban bretheran anymore. lol

    But oh, we are also rife with priceless idioms…

    • Estrella, I live far, far away from Miami on the other side of Florida. The only thing I’m missing out on, though, is the crowds… not that I miss them at all. Coming from the DC metro area to the gulf coast was one of the best things we’ve done… and we missed the Polar Vortex!!! YAY!!! *jumping for joy*

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