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Adventures in Mexican Spanish

Adventures in Mexican Spanish

Here is a potpourri of posts about the joys and pitfalls of speaking Mexican Spanish.  Whenever Omar laughs at my Spanish I remind him that at a Farmer’s Market he once sold “fresh squeezed chocolate cake.”

Sometimes everyone in Mexico talks at once

Sometimes everyone in Mexico talks at once

More Muddled Spanish

July 11, 2007

Avocados are just beautiful here, and in my early days of travel I bought three in the market and ate them with lime and salt.

When someone asked me what I had eaten for lunch, darned if I knew the word for “avocado.”  But how different could it be?  After all, “avocado” sounds like a Spanish word.

Little did I know that in Mexico they use the word “aguacate,” which is derived not from Spanish but from the Nahuatl “aguacatl.”

So I ended up telling the kind inquiring lady that I had dined on “Tres abogados, con limon y sal”—“Three lawyers, sprinkled with lemon and salt.”

I’m sure they were hard to digest.

Dan and Omar

More Dangerous Spanish

June 17, 2007

I taught Junior High school in Mexico for several years, and my students were always eager to hear stories of my travels.

One tale they particularly liked was of exploring caves in the Yucatan and swimming in the deep sinkholes called cenotes.  For some reason this story always brought gales of laughter, especially as I demonstrated swimming through the cenotes as if I was parting seaweed.

I don’t know how long it was before it dawned on me that cenotes sounds the same as the slang “senotes”—or big boobs.

Dan and Omar

Try Out This Mexican Spanish!

May 18, 2007

I am not making this up.

An ear, nose, and throat doctor in a small town in the state of Michoacan is an ortorrinolarengologo en Parangaricutirimicuaro.  Try saying it three times fast.

Dan and Omar

Hustling Bugs and Other Oddities in Mexican Spanish

April 28, 2007

As we’ve mentioned in some previous posts, there are pitfalls in learning Spanish.  It is easy to be misconstrued even if you are really, really close to almost saying it kind of right.

In my early days I mixed up mosquitos (zancudos) with carrots (zanahorias).  My buddies rolled in the aisles as I swatted carrots and ordered slices of mosquito cake with cream cheese frosting.

I remember one New Year’s Eve with my great friend Rob, in the rather shady Taco Cabana.  At that point Rob hadn’t mastered the Spanish ñ, and repeatedly wished everyone in sight a “Feliz Ano Nuevo”—a “Happy New Heiny Hole”.

Which brings us to mayates.  This is the time of the year for swarms of beetles to appear at twilight.  They collect on window screens, smash repeatedly into lights, and awkwardly wing their way into your mouth, onto your hat, and down your shirt.  Perhaps they are distracted.  A large number of the mayates are busy ensuring the survival of their species.  In other words, they are doing it, double-decker, doggie style, like the flies we used to think, in more innocent days, were Siamese.  But these aren’t slim-lined acrobats of the air like flies.  They are more like airborne Volkswagons, one super-glued on top the other.

So what does this biological oddity have to do with Mexican Spanish?  And with Mexican humor?  A mayate, you see, is a male prostitute, a hustler who exclusively assumes the “top” or “active” position.  (Don’t ask me how I know).  It is very Mexican that this term would be used to describe horny beetles.  Although the name is a derogatory “swear word,” everyone from three-year-old niñas to sweet old abuelas use it to describe the bumbling insects.

Dan and Omar

Odd Facts About Mexican Spanish

March 29, 2007

A female child in Mexico, up to three or four years of age, is often called “Mami” (Mommy) by the parents.  I suppose baby boys are called “Papi,” but I don’t hear that half as often as I hear little girls called Mami.

Mamá, used in referring to your mother, has the accent on the second syllable.  The word “mama” with the accent on the first syllable means “breast.”

In the Mexican state of Jalisco, people customarily drop the first letters of Mamá and Papá, calling their folks Amá and Apá.

Dan and Omar

Fun Facts:  Adios

Friday, November 10, 2006

As everyone knows, adios means “goodbye.”  Literally “to God,” and therefore similar to the English, which comes from “God be” or God be with you.  There is an accent mark over the o that says to stress the last syllable, “Ohs.”  The “s” is hard.  (I have taken off the accent mark because in my move to a new server, the accent comes out as gibberish characters).

But did you know that in Mexico we also use adios as “hello” in some situations?

If you are passing by an acquaintance and want to greet them but don’t have time to talk, you can use adios, but with a slightly different pronunciation.  The first two syllables are the same, but the third is pitched lower and drawn waaaay out—AH DEE oooooooohs, rising slightly at the very end.

You’ll hear it all the time as people pass each other on the street or in the market.

Dan and Omar

Come Here!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A neglected aspect of learning to speak Spanish is the body language.  Mexicans use hand gestures much more than English speakers.  The sign for “come here” is an example.

When we want an English speaker to draw nearer we turn up the palm and either crook a finger or, alternately, open and close all four fingers.

In Mexico, “come here” is similar, but the palm is down and the wrist rotates up and down while the fingers open and close.

Which looks a lot like “go away” to most English speakers.

I once passed a police checkpoint on a lonely road in Zacatecas.  The policeman made the “come here” sign—he wanted to search my car.  Being new to Mexico, I thought he was saying “Go right ahead,” which I did, with a smile and a wave.  It’s a miracle I wasn’t stopped at the next pueblo.

Dan and Omar

Lost in the Translation

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We love to collect product names that, while sounding perfectly fine in Spanish, have other meanings in English.  Here are some of our favorites—and they are real products.

Imagine using Greasy Shampoo (Grisi), eating Cranky Cookies (Kranki), loving with Sico condoms, and enjoying Elf Lubricants (I bet the elves do!).

It seems whenever we sit down to eat, on comes a very graphic TV commercial promoting Nixon hemorrhoid cream (Nikson).  The name is deliciously appropriate.

Guadalajara had a Men Hung Chinese restaurant that always aroused my, uh, curiosity.

One of the most popular baked goods here is Bimbo bread.

But our absolute, all time favorite is Lyps toilet paper.  Can you imagine—“Oooooh, so soft!  Only Lyps is good enough for my family’s behinds!”

Of course, it works both ways.  Our Mexican friends invariably come back from the states with photos of them beaming away in front of a ChiChi’s Mexican Restaurant sign.  After all, who could pass up the chance to eat at a place named “Titties?”

Dan and Omar

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1 comment to Adventures in Mexican Spanish

  • I loved your article and the suggestions provided. There are thousands of recommendations out there that are both good and not good. If you have any more suggestions concerning gardening or related topics, that would be much appreciated. Keep up the good writing!

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.