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Still More Dangerous Spanish—Explaining Mayate

Still More Dangerous Spanish—Explaining Mayate

Mayate Beetles

Mayate Beetles

June 22, 2007

Spanish is not the same everywhere.  Just as Australians speak differently than New Englanders, Cubans speak differently than Argentineans.  Even within Mexico there is some variation, and if you have a good ear you can tell if someone is from Guadalajara, pues, or Mexico City, mano, or Chiapas (lots of Mayan).

While in most of the Spanish-speaking world the verb “coger” means “to take,” in Mexico it means “to have sex with”—and I’m cleaning this up.  It’s the big “F” word here, and you only use it in the proper circumstances, and not around polite company.

I was once on a street corner in Costa Rica when a middle age man came up to me and asked where he could “coger” the bus.  Having learned Spanish in Mexico I was a little taken back, but wishing to be friendly I suggested the muffler.

Which isn’t as bad as the Spanish teacher direct from Spain who came to teach at the high school where I worked.  One day the kids were rolling on the floor with tears in their eyes, they were laughing so hard.  I asked them why.  It seems the teacher, an older, spinsterish woman, had exclaimed in the course of a story in Spanish,  “He took me by surprise!”

Which brings me to the word “mayate,” which has popped up in a couple of posts recently.  Here in Jalisco everyone uses it to describe the beetles that swarm this time of year, no matter what color or species the insect may be.  Everyone also knows that a mayate is a male prostitute with specific, um, talents.   The usage for beetles obviously arises from the mating position of the randy insects, which is favored by doggies as well.  Mexicans don’t sweat using the same name for brown beetles and bopping boys—they tend to think it is cute, if anything, and I agree with them.

In looking up the word mayate, however, I find that in other parts the word is still used for beetles, but also as a derogatory name for folks of color, presumably because most of the beetles are black.

Well, that takes the fun out of it.  I’ll still use mayate here, but I’ll be more careful about using the word where it could be misconstrued as hurtful.  Always something new to learn.

Dan and Omar

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