Tag Archives: language

Spanish Lesson: Expressing Happiness

By Julie Etra

As in English, there are various ways to say you’re happy.

Happy: feliz, felices (pl). “Feliz” may be the most common word used for “happy.” There’s a wonderful song, “Sé feliz,” written by the Cuban singer Anaís Abreu, with big hits by singers like the late Mercedes Sosa from Argentina and Lila Downs from Mexico. The lyrics contrast states of sadness and despair with buoyant happiness:

Si la soledad te enferma el alma
If loneliness makes your soul sick
Si el invierno llega a tu ventana
If winter comes to your window
No te abandones a la calma, con la herida abierta
Do not abandon yourself to calm, with an open wound
Mejor olvidas y comienzas una vida nueva.
You better forget and start a new life.
Y respira el aire puro
And breathe the fresh air
Sin el vicio de las dudas.
Without the vice of doubts.
Si un día encuentras la alegría de la vida
If one day you find the joy of life
Sé feliz, sé feliz, sé feliz, sé feliz.
Be happy, be happy, be happy, be happy.

Happy Birthday: feliz cumpleaños (don’t forget the tilde over the ‘n’).

Congratulations: felicidades, felicitaciones – obviously, these terms are related to feliz.

Other words for “happy”:
alegre – happy, gleeful, joyous, stronger than feliz.
contento(a) – happy, less emphatic than feliz, equivalent to “content” in English: Estoy contenta – I am content, I am happy, I am satisfied.
satisfecho(a) – much like contento(a).
dichoso(a) – especially happy, blissful, fully satisfied: Me siento dichoso por haberte conocido – I am really happy to have met you.

Words for “happiness”:

alegria – happiness, gleefulness, cheerfulness.
gozo – joy, enjoyment, from the verb gozar, to enjoy.
júbilo – joy, glee, jubilance. It is not the same as jubilado(a), which means retired (which, dear readers, I am not).

We’ll save triste and tristeza (sad and sadness) for the next issue of The Eye.

Spanish Lesson

Verbs beginning with A

abandonar – to abandon, leave behind
abordar – to board, get on [plane, bus, etc.]
abrazar – to hug, embrace
aburrir – to bore; to tire, weary
abusar – to go too far, take advantage
acabar – to finish, end
aceptar – to accept, approve; to agree to
acercarse – to approach
adorar – to adore, worship
advertir – to notice, observe, advise, warn
afeitar – to shave
afirmar – to make firm, steady, to affirm
agradecer – to be thankful for
aguantar – to put up with, endure, bear, stand
abrir – to open
acercar – move towards
ahorrar – to save
alcanzar – to reach, catch, catch up to
almorzar – to lunch, eat lunch, have lunch
alquilar – to rent; to rent out
amar – to love
amenazar – to threaten, menace
andar – to walk, go
anunciar – to announce
apagar – to extinguish, put out, turn off
aplaudir – to applaud, cheer, clap
aplicar – to apply
apostar – to bet, wager
apoyar – to support, hold up, prop up; to back
apreciar – to appreciate, value, esteem, estimate, notice
aprender – to learn
arreglar – to arrange, settle, fix up, repair, tidy up
arrepentirse – to repent, be repentant, regret

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

This month we’ll take just a little bite out of food and menus.

Appetizer(s): entrada(s) (NOT the main course)

Breakfast: desayuno – ayunar is the verb for “to fast,” as in break [your] fast, just like English

Corn Chips: totopos

Dinner: cena – cenar is the verb. As in ¿Donde quieren cenar esta noche? Where do you all want to eat tonight?

Drinks: bebidas Your mesera/mesero/joven will ask you ¿Quieres algunas bebidas? Anything to drink? (The verb beber means “to drink.” You could also use tomar for “drink”: ¿Algo para tomar? Something to drink?

Lunch: comida. Yes, I know comida also means “food,” but if you go to a translate app or, God forbid, a dictionary, “lunch” will translate as almuerzo, which is not a quick and easy meal; almuerzo could be used for a full brunch or a “lunch” that starts late (maybe 2 pm) and is a heavy meal. And comida is a more complicated term. You will see signs for comida corrida, a fixed-price lunch special with three to four courses. In Huatulco, try the restaurant Albahaca (which means “basil”) on Gardenia, or La Cabaña de Pino on Guelaguetza on the east side of the canal. A comida corrida menu typically includes soup, tortillas, rice or pasta, and a choice of main course. Sometimes they offer a dessert – and sometimes it’s on the house (postre de cortesía)!

Ice cream: helado. Around the zocalo (“central square” in southern Mexico, although an architectural term as well), you will find food carts selling nieves (nieve means “snow,” and in this case is a refreshing frozen treat, like shaved ice flavored with syrups); push carts also sell paletas, the Mexican popsicle on a stick. They are water-based and flavored with natural ingredients.

Snack: bocadita (“little bite”), or antojitos (literally, “whim” or “craving”), from the verb antojar (“to crave”).

Pun of the month: ¿Qué dijo el tortillero filósofo? No hay más allá.

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

This month we look at pegar, a verb with many uses, and suerte, the word for “luck,” which, surprisingly enough, can come in quite handy!

Pegar

Pegar is, as noted, a very versatile verb, but rather than being verbose, I will keep it to a few fun phrases and definitions! Its primary use is “to stick” or “to glue,” but it can be used as a synonym for golpear, “to hit,” and it can be used to describe plants, to mean “well rooted” or “established.”

Examples

  1. Por favor, me gustaría pegar los carteles a la pared. Please, I would like to put up these posters on the wall.
  2. Hace tanto calor que se me pega el pelo a mi frente.
    It is so hot that my hair is stuck to my forehead.
  3. El campocorto pegó la pelota de béisbol al campo derecho.
    The shortstop hit the baseball to right field.
  4. Esa bugambilia tiene por lo menos tres años; está muy bien pegada en la jardinera.
    That bougainvillea is at least three years old; it is very well rooted in the planter.

Pegar derivatives (nouns, adjectives, adverbs):

Pegamento: glue
Pegajoso: sticky

Suerte

The word suerte means “luck.” If someone wants to wish you “Good Luck,” they will say “¡Buena suerte!” or just “¡Suerte!” Useful at the Chedraui checkout counter when they offer you lottery tickets: No, gracias, ¡nunca tengo suerte!

You can have buena suerte or mala suerte. Should you wish to practice your Spanish reading skills, try Rosa Montero’s 2020 novel, La buena suerte, in which good luck turns out to be bad luck, and vice versa – or maybe it’s hard to tell!

Here are some other phrases associated with luck:

  1. Mere circunstancia. Mere chance.
  2. Chiripada, chiripa. Lucky.
  3. Pura cajeta. Literally, “pure dulce de leche,” or pure caramel sauce; used to mean serendipitously lucky, as in a lucky shot in tennis.

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

This month, let’s take a look at two verbs with multiple, not-always-obvious meanings – andar and echar.

Andar literally means to walk, but also to go out with or date, to be, to come out, run (operate), to run around, go ahead, go around doing something, to be from; synonymous in some meanings with caminar.

Examples:

  1. Andamos juntos al cine. We walk together to the movies.
  2. Mi coche anda bien. My car runs fine.
  3. Todo anda bien/mal. Everything is (going) fine / wrong.
  4. Maria anda con Juan. Maria is dating Juan/going out with Juan.
  5. ¡Andale (pues)! Move it!
  6. Tomas siempre anda tomado. Tomas always is/ goes around drunk.
  7. El andaba borracho cuando se cayó. He was drunk when he fell.
  8. Ella siempre anda preocupada. She is always worried.
  9. ¿Andas por aquí? Are you from around here?

Echar is complicated! It is very idiomatic but fun and versatile. There are lots of ways to use this verb. Common meanings: to throw, launch, toss, drop, throw out.

  1. Echar de menos. To miss someone. Te echo de menos. I miss you.
  2. Echarse a perder. To rot/go bad. La leche se echa a perder. The milk is going bad.
  3. Echar ganas. ¡Echale ganas! To be motivated, move it, let’s give it a try!
  4. Echar un vistazo. To glance. Le echo un vistazo a Carla. I glance at Carla.
  5. Echar chispas por los ojos. To glare (literally, to throw sparks from your eyes).
  6. Echar aguas. To warn someone, “Watch out!” (From the medieval custom of throwing dirty water, including night soil, out the window into the street.)
  7. Echarle porras (a alguien). To encourage (someone).
  8. Echar hojas. To sprout leaves.
  9. Echar el ojo. To take a look, to choose.
  10. Echar tacos. To eat lunch. Echarse un taco (de ojo). To look, maybe leer, at someone very attractive.

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

Local Expressions (colloquialisms) and Polite Exchanges

Money: Dinero is broadly used. Lana is synonymous and more common here. Billete refers to the actual bill. Biyuyo is also used here. Moneda is coinage, but slang includes morraya and chincastle.

Bottled water: A big 5-gallon jugs of water is called a garrafón as opposed to a small bottle of water, una botella

Beer: Cerveza is universal, but also known here as a chela. A caguama is the 40 oz version, and a species of sea turtle. A michelada is beer with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, clamato juice, and chili peppers. It is served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Kind of like a Caesar.

Work: Trabajo is universal but here you will hear chamba (noun), chambear (verb), chambeando (adverb)

Polite expressions for excuse me:
Con permiso: Useful when shopping and you need to get around someone
Perdón: pardon
Discúlpame: forgive me

¡Provecho! Enjoy your meal, said to the adjacent diners upon leaving a restaurant

Boats: Here the smaller fishing boats are lanchas or pangas. Yachts, power or sail, are yates. Big boats are barcos. Sailboats are veleras.

We are even, as in ‘keep the change’ (said when paying a bill): Estamos a mano.

And for fun, here is a pun:
¿Que le dijo un pez al otro pez?
NADA

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

We are resurrecting a monthly column that addresses local phrases to help you with your stay here in Huatulco, be it short or long term. This month we will focus on road signs and other interesting asides.

Ceda el paso = yield
Desviacion = detour. Via is the Latin root for route, way. The vehicles marked with ‘viales’ could be translated as highway patrol, but not as we know them in the USA.
Dos sentidos = two-way traffic
Grava suelta = loose gravel
Maquinas pesadas = heavy equipment working
Un sentido = one way
Solo carril = one lane only
Tope, vibradores = speed bumps (these come in a large assortment; check the EYE archives for more detail)
No estacionarse (often an E with a circle and red line across the E) = no parking
No tire basura = no littering

And what is with those seemingly randomly located stops signs heading east on Highway 200, ending at Secrets, with no one stopping? Those are for future hotels with associated bus stops and pedestrian crossings. And in La Crucecita there is the ‘no one stops at the stop sign’ at the intersection of Chahue eastbound and the north entrance to Calle Gardenia (one way), across from the ADO bus depot. And an Honorable Mention for the stop sign on Benito Juarez Blvd just west of the golf gourse where it turns south towards La Crucecita.

A few words in Zapotec. Zapotec is one of many distinct languages in the state of Oaxaca (there are at least 16), predating the arrival of the Spaniards. It resides in the family of otomangues and within the family are multiple dialects in accordance with the region, e.g the Isthmus versus the Valley of Oaxaca, often mutually unintelligible. Here in Huatulco, we have several restaurants and a few hotels with Zapotec names, such as:

Bie’ che’ is a bar and restaurant located above Xipol in La Crucecita, the former location of La Crema. It means ‘rejoice’, ‘be glad’.
Binniguenda is an all-inclusive hotel in Santa Cruz. It means ‘ancient people spawned from the clouds.’
Bladuyu is the name of a restaurant at the entrance to Chahue where they feature dishes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It is named for the clay (terracotta) dishes used in many restaurants.
Itoo’, another restaurant, is in Santa Cruz. It means ‘go eat’.

The “Poor Man’s Ox” – The Mexican Burro “¡No seas burro!”

By Julie Etra

Burro, donkey, jackass, mule, hinny.

Starting with nomenclature, burros are the same as donkeys and are related to horses and zebras (the Equidae family). They were bred in Egypt or Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago, originating from the African continent, where they were used as beasts of burden. A jenny or hinny is the offspring of a male horse and female donkey; they are usually sterile and therefore cannot reproduce. A mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse, and is also sterile (sterility also applies to zebra hybrids). A male donkey is also called a “jack” or “ass” (hence the word “jackass”). A young donkey is called a “foal.” In Mexico one often hears the expression “no seas mula” or “no seas burro,” as per the COVID 19 signs posted around Huatulco (also saying ‘with all due respect to the animal), and meaning “Don’t be stubborn,” just as we say, “Don’t be a jackass” (although that implies more than stubbornness).

Although I have read that the current population of burros in Mexico is estimated to be three million, I have also read that they are in danger of extinction with only 300,000 burros left. We do, however, forget about the usefulness of this animal in Mexico, and its historic significance.

Popular belief has it that Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga (1468-1548), felt sympathy for the native load carriers or porters (cargadoras, or Tlamemehs or tamemes in Nahuatl), and the strenuous burdens they carried. Part of the lower social class called los macehuales, tamemes were not slaves but were trained from birth for this work, following in their parents’ footsteps. They fulfilled an important role in Aztecan society and were essential, as there were no pack animals in Mexico before the arrival of the Spaniards. They wore a wide leather strap with ixtle (agave fiber) rope that held the load carried on the back. Called a mecapal, the strap was wrapped around the forehead; some of them included wooden structures for additional support. The tamemes could carry up to 60 pounds; although travel routes and distances varied, a common trip averaged 15 miles.

Back to the burros. At the time of their importation to New Spain, burros had been domesticated in Spain for at least 3,000 years. There is evidence that four male and two female burros accompanied Columbus on his 1493 voyage, and that they disembarked either in Cuba or Hispaniola (the island made up of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). On his first voyage (1492), Columbus – with a European eye – noted that crops and domesticated animals were in short supply, and recommended that all subsequent voyages include them. Along with the burros, horses, longhorn cattle, crates of chickens, and seeds and cuttings of about 30 crops, including sugar cane. The cattle lost no time crossing the Gulf to Mexico and quickly became successful, in terms of both production and money-making. So, although oxen (technically speaking, an ox is just a big strong cow, usually male, trained to work – plowing, hauling, milling, etc.), were well-established in New Spain by perhaps 1520, they belonged to the ranchers of New Spain, not the lower classes of the conquered Aztecs.

Fray Juan apparently accomplished the Mexican importation of burros in 1533, with animals from Castile (Castilla), in northwestern Spain. The burros evidently found conditions in New Spain to be ideal, and so the donkeys went forth and multiplied throughout areas of the Spanish conquest, but particularly in Mexico and Central America, where llamas, endemic to areas of South America, were already in use as pack animals.

What makes a burro a burro? We know they have long ears and colors vary. They are usually calm and astute but can also become stubborn; they are known to be playful and affectionate. They emit a long “bray” (rebuzno in Spanish). Lifespan averages 15 to 30 years, depending on the care they receive. They are vegetarians, with a diet based on grasses, alfalfa, shrubs, vegetables and, especially hay (which can include multiple baled species including alfalfa), but are very tough and can find forage even in deserts. Reproduction varies according to sex: the male reaches sexual maturity at about three years and the female at about four years. Pregnancy varies from 11 to 14 months, typically with just one offspring. In the wild, they are solitary and don’t form groups or harems of females as do wild horses. They have a well-developed olfactory system, detecting smells up to six miles away. And unlike a llama, they can carry up to four times their own weight. Hooves help.

So, “¡No seas burro!” Wear your cubreboca, maintain social distancing, be respectful, and listen to what the experts and authorities tell you. We’ll get through this pandemic eventually.

Learning Mexican Spanish

By Julie Etra

Spanish was established as a distinct language around the 13th century, distinct from Catalan and Portuguese, when Alfonso el Sabio (Alfonso the Wise), assembled his scribes in the courts of Toledo to document various subjects, including astronomy, law, and history, thus acknowledging it as a written language. Spanish, like its cousins, was considered a Latin dialect, the Romans having invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 206 B.C. It is laced with Arabic words, such as almohada (pillow), as the Moors, from Morocco, arrived on the Peninsula about 711 (and were conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in Granada in 1492). It is the fourth most common language in the world, following English, Mandarin, and Hindi. Standard Spanish can be considered Castilian Spanish.

Oaxaca, the name of our home state, is not a Spanish word. It is derived from the Nahuatl word Huaxyacac, which refers to a tree called a “guaje” (Leucaena leucocephala) found in many parts of Mexico. The name was originally applied to the Valley of Oaxaca by the Nahuatl-speaking Mexica, aka Aztecs, who had conquered the region.

Here are some helpful words and phrases to help you with your coastal Spanish.

Let’s start with “cool,” an American word supposedly coined in the 1930s by saxophonist Lester Young to describe something as intensely good.

There are three common ways to say something is cool.
padre (this widely accepted term means “father”)
chido
perrón (literally, “dog”)

And then there is chingón. This is a bit more intense and means something outstanding, super, and is very slangy. Watch it with this word as conjugations have totally different meanings. Chingar, the verb, is very vulgar in Mexico. Chingadazo means easy and quick, as in a quick and easy recipe, but also means a forceful blow. (The -azo suffix is very common, for example slamming a door is a portazo, derived from puerta). And chingadera, well, that means everything is screwed up, annoying, much like the US expression “SNAFU”; it also means to be far away in a nebulous place, as in hasta la chingada. You will hear these, but I don’t recommend using them.

HANDY EXPRESSIONS

A menos que: unless, as in “unless the flight is late.”
¿A poco? and No me digas: Both mean REALLY? As in “Are you kidding?” or “No way!”
¿A ti que mas te da?: What’s it to you?
¿Como vas? ¿Como te vas?: How are you doing? What’s happening?
Con permiso: Excuse me – literally, “with permission,” as in when you want to pass in front of someone; perdon also means “excuse me,” as in when you bump into someone or want to get someone’s attention.
Cuanto antes, en cuanto: as soon as
De vez en cuando: from time to time
Estamos a mano: We are even, as in when you pay your bill.
Mas vale tarde que nunca: better late than never
Ni modo: Too bad, tough luck
Para llevar: to go, as in food to go
Por si acaso: just in case
¿Que tal?: What’s up?
Sale vale: okey dokey
Sin son ni ton: neither here nor there, it does not make sense
Tengo ganas: I feel like it, I have the urge. As in Tengo ganas de regresar a Huatulco – I want to go back to Huatulco! Or Tengo ganas de llorar – I feel like crying.
Vale la pena: It is worth it.
Que pena: What a shame. (Also, que lastima – What a pity.)

HANDY VOCABULARY

Atajo: shortcut
Ballena, caguama: big bottle of beer
Banda: group of friends, clique
Chavo/chava: kid/child
Chela: beer (instead of cerveza)
Degustar, probar: taste, as in try a taste
Disponible: available
Eso (literally, “that”): That’s right, looks good, quite so, thumbs up
Garrafón: the 5-gallon jug of water
Grupo: band (music)
Hielera: cooler, essential for llevando las chelas a la playa
Huevos revueltos: scrambled eggs; huevos bien cocidos: over hard; huevos tiernos: over easy
Lana (literally, “wool”): money
Los invitados: guests, like those coming for dinner, as opposed to huespedes (hotel guests)
¿Mande? ¿Como?: What? Say that again? (used almost exclusively in Mexico)
Nunca: never
Próximamente: coming soon, like a vaccine for COVID 19
Quizás, a lo mejor, tal vez: perhaps, maybe
Pausa, descanso; break (as in take a break) – Tomar una pausa. Tomar un descanso.
Sino: in addition, on top of it

SLANG

Although we extranjeros may not feel comfortable actually “slanging,” we hear a lot of these common sayings.

Dale: Give it your all, everything, best effort
Fresa: snob (literally, strawberry)
Fuchi: smells bad
Güey or wey: dude, as in ¿Que honda güey? What’s happening, dude?
Hasta la madre: fed up
Huacala or Guacala: gross, tastes bad
Hueva: laziness, noun with same import as the adjectives
perezoso or flojo. Tirar/echar la hueva, tener hueva: to be doing
nothing
Porfa: short for por favor, please, Also porfi, porfis
¿Q’ hubo?: What’s happening?
¿Que onda?: What’s up?
Sale, dale, vale: Ok, let’s go! Let’s do it. Also, sale: See you
later.
¡Simón!: Yes! i.e., with enthusiasm
¡Ya basta!: Enough already!