The boobs and the bees

Come to find out, learning a language is much different than living a language–for example, when you learn a language, your teacher gets to decide what to tell you. When you live in a language, you pretty much hear everything, and you get to see how the locals talk, whether or not it’s grammatically or politically correct!

My idea for this post was to talk about things I’ve noticed that Spaniards say a lot. And in gathering my ideas, I’ve realized that a LOT of the words and phrases are palabrotas (bad words). But it also opened up an entirely new can of worms–what Spaniards find bad, rude, or inappropriate…and how different that can be from what Americans do.

Before going any further, I want to warn you: if swear words or sacrilegious topics offend you, you probably shouldn’t read this post. If you’re reading this to your kids, you should probably stop now. I’m not going to censor myself here!

Speaking of not censoring, one big thing I’ve noticed is the lack of censoring of nipples in this country. By that I mean, they don’t censor nipples at all. In fact, the other day I was watching an American TV show about plastic surgery before and after, and the surgeon was examining a woman’s breasts and the nipples were not blurred. So in the process of getting the show ready for Spanish viewers, not only did they dub it in Spanish, but they un-blurred the nipples. I’ve also seen movies on TV with nipples out in the open. And I’m not talking about channels like HBO. This is on free public TV. It makes me think about our priorities in the US. Why do we blur women’s nipples? Well, that’s a topic I’m not going to delve into right now!

Spaniards are also more open to bad words, blasphemy, and sacrilege. Okay, this isn’t to say that Spaniards are horrible people that swear all the time and hate religion. They are sweet, amazing, caring, hilarious people who love to talk and would love nothing more than to meet you for a beer here and chat. Anyway. The curious thing about this is that Spain is a country deeply rooted in Catholicism with an infamous history defending their religion. But maybe that same history has something to do with the way they talk about it now. It could also be that Spaniards are more comfortable with having a sense of humor about their religion. Another theory is that they don’t actually mean to cause offense to religion by speaking blasphemy. For example, when we say “holy shit!” in English, are we actually talking about something holy, or are we just expressing anger or surprise? I would go with the latter.

So here we go with things Spaniards say all the time!

Word: “Es que” Translation: It’s that…

A great way to start off a sentence explaining something!

Word: “hombre” Translation: dude/man/come on/of course/obviously

Hombre is one of the first words you learn in Spanish, and you’re told that it means “man”. But in Spain it takes on an additional meaning that’s similar to how we may say “dude” in the context of “dude, obviously every politician is going to lie about something”. Yeah I went there!

Word: “venga” Translation: come on/let’s go/you don’t say/yeah right

Technically, venga is the 1st and 3rd person singular present subjunctive form of verb venir (to arrive or to return). Whew, deep breath. In English, that basically translates to “come” as in “if I come to your party, you better have beer”. But the word venga here is used so commonly that if you want to sound like a Spaniard, all you have to do is talk normally in Spanish and then throw in “venga” once every sentence or two. And it has so many meanings, even Spaniards have a hard time explaining what the hell it means.

Word: “gilipollas” Translation: idiot/douchebag

This one is straightforward and simple, and I love it because I find it really funny. You could call anyone a gillipollas, and it’s always with an s at the end, even when you’re talking about one person. Just be careful that you don’t say it to their face, because yeah, it’s offensive.


Word: “vaya” Translation: wow/what a…/damn!/a ton of other meanings

Think of it as “wow,” or any word before another that adds emphasis. Originally, I learned that this word is the present subjunctive form of the verb “ir” (to go), so vaya would mean “go”.

Word: “tontería” Translation: nonsense/foolishness

I learned this word recently while watching one of my favorite Spanish shows called “Grand Hotel” (on Netflix, highly recommend). They use it a lot, and it’s a bit antiquated, but so great and it’s one of my favorite words. It takes the root “tonto” or stupid and brings it to a new level. Like why would I get involved with this crap, this tontería??

Word: “hasta luego” (‘sta luego) Translation: see you later/goodbye

This one is easy! Who hasn’t heard of the phrase “hasta luego!”? It’s just like you learned in Spanish class; it means “see you later!”. The main surprise I had upon hearing it hear is just the way it’s pronounced. To avoid sounding like a complete tourist, you have to cut off the beginning “ha” part and just say “‘sta luego”. Also, Spaniards basically never say “adios”.

Word: “joder” Translation: F word

Just like the f-bomb has a lot of different uses, meanings, and applications in English, it also does in Spanish. It’s a verb, noun, adjective, and adverb. It could be good or bad. It’s vulgar but widely used.

Word: “así que” Translation: So

Frequently used during phone conversations or as a filler, this phrase is a staple that one must know when living here.

Word: “hostia” Translation: punch/slap/dammit/f*ck/the best/idiot

This is a very new one for me, and I was really confused before I learned its meaning because I heard it in SO many contexts. If you describe something as “la hostia,” it’s awesome. You could also use it as a way to say that you’re going to hit something/someone, or use it by itself to say dammit. The original meaning comes from the Catholic church, as “hostia” is actually the small wafer you eat during communion. Don’t ask me how it’s evolved to be used in this form!

I wonder what new, wonderful things I’ll learn today?!


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