The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
My first “real word” in Spanish was siempre (always), appropriate because I feel I will always love the language. I also learned nunca (never), after which the language grabbed me and has never let go. As with any grasp, there may be struggles; with words they come as mispronunciation, misspelling and improper use. Here are some favorite and not-so-favorite Spanish words:
Avergonzado - embarrassed. A good word to use after you apologize for asking a man if he is embarazada
Berejena - eggplant. A fun word to say: “kh” the j, a (personal) favorite sound in Spanish
Bienvenidos - welcome. A beautiful word that spills from the mouth easily.
Camarista - housekeeper. A good word to know in a hotel. Cama means bed, rista means of an organization or occupation. Be sure to tip well!
Desafortunadamente - unfortunately. Oh! I love this long, tongue-twisty word when said directly and with intent.
Embarazada – pregnant. A favorite not only for its unusual pronunciation, but because it sounds like “embarrassed.”
Naranja – orange (fruit and color). I have always struggled with the pronunciation of this word. ¡No me gusta la palabra naranja!
Rico – rich, expensive, or delicious. May also be used as a lover’s term for sensual. Roll the rrr at the beginning, to add a little spice.
I’m a huge fan of Méxican Spanish slang, including these words I learned while living in México:
Abarotte - a small tienda, or corner store, independently owned, that may sell everything from candy to beer to diapers
Botanos - complimentary snacks served in bars with drinks, ranging from hot dog slices to olives to palomitas (popcorn)
Cawama - giant bottles of beer that you return to the aborotte in exchange for a few pesos off the next one
Chattara - junk food; snacks like chips or duritos (wheel shaped rice crisps), often served with hot sauce and límon
Garrafont - large, exchangeable, plastic: 20 liter bottles of drinking water, common in most households
¡Hijole! – excited expression for “alright!” or “oh boy!” may also mean “Son of a …!” (excitement, not insult)
¡Orale! - literally translates as “Pray to Him,” means OK or understood, often in exclamation
Palomitas de Maiz - popcorn translates literally to “small doves of corn.” A lovely way to say my favorite food!
A la Orden - “at your service,” Colombians say this for many things, when ordering in a restaurant, or complimenting someone’s jewelry, which I still can’t figure out – does it mean I can wear your necklace? Thanks, lady!
Bacano - cool. Often used to describe people, or something you own, like Restaurante Bacano
Chevére – really great! A fun word to say about nearly anything, from a good time to an article of clothing
Crispeta - popcorn. Very different from the Méxican way to say my favorite food. This sounds like breakfast cereal to me.
Mazorca – fat corn. Big pieces of chunky corn on or off the cob, often grilled until brown and crisp.
Regalame – “gift me” not a wrapped present, more like “give me.” Guys say, “regalame tu numero de telefono.” Simple and direct!