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19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless

19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless

Why are they laughing at me? What the heck did I just say?

If you’ve travelled to a Spanish-speaking country, without learning how to speak Spanish, then you’ve experienced the embarrasement that comes with saying the wrong Spanish word. Especially if it’s a dirty one!

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    All languages come with their own words that have an “alternative” interpretation to native speakers, and it’s often these humorous words that bring us close together.

    Learn them all, and you’ll be in “the know” next time you get laughed at while speaking Spanish. Heck, you might even start laughing when other people say them—and that’s when you officially know you’re a Spanish speaker rather than a Spanish student.

    1. Sapo

    Clean meaning: Toad

    Dirty meaning: A lady’s hoo-ha

    This one is number one of my list, because I’ve had people laugh at me when actually speaking about toads in the context of ongoing biological research.

    There’s no way to avoid the crassness, no matter your context or technically perfect Spanish. If you’re not speaking to biologists, maybe you could pretend you only know the word for frog (rana). I say you tackle this head on, though. No fear. Make the scientific community (and me) proud by unabashedly using precise language regardless of the consequences.

    2. Concha

    Clean meaning: Seashell

    Dirty meaning: Map of Tasmania

    If you didn’t know that Tasmania is shaped like that, now you do—forever. You’re welcome. This word makes appearances in many explicit phrases used to curse people out, such as “¡Concha [de] tu madre!” and the weirder “¡Concha [de] la lora!”

    3. Perra

    Clean meaning: Female dog

    Dirty meaning: Floozie

    This darn gendered language seems like it’s designed to cause these problems on purpose. You automatically have to define a dog as a male or female dog when speaking, either a perro or perra.

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    In English, we have our own vulgar word that technically means “female dog” but is almost never used for that reason. Spanish uses “female dog” for another insult, namely “a woman of loose morals” or “a loose woman who’s had many lovers.”

    4. Comerse

    Clean meaning: To eat (reflexive)

    Dirty meaning: To do the deed

    This one caused my personal, all-time favorite Spanish embarrassment story. While talking to my Ecuadorian homestay family about a Spanish class assignment involving “La caperucita roja,” I did a metaphorical faceplant after talking about how the wolf eats the grandmother. Talk about reinventing classic stories. I will never forget the sound of eight Quiteños laughing hysterically at my Spanish blunder.

    5. Rica

    Clean meaning: Wealthy (when referring to people), delicious (when referring to food)

    Dirty meaning: Delicious (when referring to people)

    You can make a similar mistake if you’re still confusing ser and estar and want to describe someone as “a good person.” If you say that “Ella está buena” instead of “Ella es buena,” look out for some raised eyebrows—you just said that “She’s a hot piece of tail,” not that “She’s a good human being.”

    6. Culo vs. Nalga vs. Trasero

    Clean meaning: Butt

    Dirty meaning: Butt

    Okay, the dirtiness here is caused by a common mix-up between the two words listed above. Culo is a raunchy word that impressionable Spanish learners often pick up by listening to too much reggaeton.

    Nalga is a more benign word which means something akin to “butt,” “butt cheeks” when plural and “lil’ butt cheeks” when phrased more diminutively as nalguitas—but despite being more anatomical it’s still moderately crude.

    Stick with trasero, which comes out sounding more like the English “behind,” and you’ll be polite in anyone’s company.

    7. Grasa

    Clean meaning: Fat, oil

    Dirty meaning: Fat

    Again, this is another case of word mix-ups. You may have learned that grasa technically means fat, but that doesn’t mean you should refer to your own body fat or someone’s else’s that way. Instead say, “Tengo unas libras de más” (I have a few extra pounds), rather than pointing to yourself and talking about nasty, greasy lard.

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    8. Huevos

    Clean meaning: Eggs

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    You can always use huevitos if you want to make sure you don’t bungle this one up. In some countries—I myself am only aware of this happening in parts of Mexico—some native speakers defer to blancos when they’re discussing eggs.

    9. Pelotas

    Clean meaning: Smaller balls (as opposed to balón or bola which refer to a larger ball) used in sporting events

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    You may be talking about tennis equipment, but this will never not be funny.

    10. Bolas

    Clean meaning: General ball-shaped items, balls used for sporting events, edible balls of food

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    There is no Spanish word for sports-related balls that isn’t funny. Sorry. This particular word is twice as bad because you can also eat bolas in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Suddenly, “¿Qué comiste hoy en el almuerzo?” becomes a dangerous question.

    11. Chorizo

    Clean meaning: Sausage

    Dirty meaning: Exactly what you think it means

    Your home country doesn’t matter—it’s part of human nature to identify vaguely phallic-shaped items and laugh at them. We all know what a sausage looks like, and we all know what that word can mean in the right (or wrong) context.

    12. Pechuga vs. Pecho

    Clean meaning: Chicken breast/human chest, human breast

    Dirty meaning: Breasts

    Let’s clear all this up right away: Pechuga is for talking about chicken breasts and pecho is a more technical term for a human chest. Pecho can be used when speaking about medical issues, physical fitness, breastfeeding and any other usual topic of conversation.

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    Pechuga, when used in reference to a person, conveys that you think of that person as a slab of meat. Pecho, used when talking about meat, conveys that you don’t know how to speak Spanish.

    You don’t always want to say pecho when talking about people (or yourself), since that can be awkward if you’re in the midst of a girls’ night out or something. If you actually want to talk casually about boobies (and not the blue-footed kind) with friends, in Ecuador you can use chichis in a playful sense and avoid sounding totally awkward.

    13. Bolsa

    Clean meaning: Bag, shopping bag, sack

    Dirty meaning: Sack

    Say funda instead, for the love of God.

    14. Pájaro/Pajarito

    Clean meaning: Bird, little bird

    Dirty meaning: Homosexual (offensive)

    This totally innocent word becomes an offensive slur when used in the wrong country. In many places, ave sounds heavy, awkward or is simply less-commonly used, and that’s where you’ll want to use pájaro to talk about our winged, flying friends.

    In other regions, namely the Caribbean and perhaps a few others, you should only ever use ave. Pay attention when people speak or ask your hosts if you’re unsure! Honestly, you can never go very wrong with ave, so it’s the safe choice no matter where you are.

    15. Ganas

    Clean meaning: Desire, urge; to have the desire or urge to do something

    Dirty meaning: Animal urges (ahem)

    Sure, you can say “Tengo ganas de comer una hamburguesa enorme” (I feel like eating an enormous hamburger), but don’t pause after “Tengo ganas.” If your conversation exchange partner thinks the sentence ends there, funny looks will abound.

    16. Coger

    Clean meaning: To grab

    Dirty meaning: To do the deed

    In many countries and contexts, this verb is A-OK. The internet will expressly forbid you from using it in most Latin American countries, but Ecuadorians and Colombians (citizens of countries that are supposed to only know of the dirtycoger usage) can be heard innocently saying things like “Voy a coger un taxi” (I’m going to take a taxi) all day long.

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    It’s pretty much a toss up when you’ll get someone snickering at you for using it, no matter where in the world you are—though I’ve heard the word is actually off limits in Chile and Peru, so you might want to ask when you arrive at your Spanish-speaking destination.

    17. Me cago vs. me caigo

    Clean meaning: I fall (me caigo – caerse)

    Dirty meaning: I sh*t myself (me cago – cagarse)

    Even if you’re not clumsy and falling down all the time, me cago is a great phrase to have on hand, particularly for the expression “Me cago de [la] risa,” which is roughly equivalent to ROFL. You may also want to describe how you’re falling in love with “Me cago en el amor.” Now, these phrases come from the irregular (and seriously vulgar in every possible context) verb cagarse, not caerse (to fall).

    Beginning Spanish language learners have been known to accidentally mix these up or simply mis-conjugate or mispronounce their intended verb. Urban Dictionary can’t even tell the difference between these phrases, which shows you just how deep this goes.

    Even if you always say “Me caigo” perfectly, you may well have immature jokesters play off your words, twist your words around for jokes at your expense or chuckle at you de la nada.

    18. Vaina

    Clean meaning: Thing

    Dirty meaning: Thang

    This is possibly the most frequently-used word in the Dominican Republic. Absolutely everything is a vaina, so leave cosa behind once you’ve set foot on Dominican soil. Since everything can be a vaina, it’s no small wonder that it can be used to casually refer to one’s private parts—mostly for ladies.

    You’ll get some giggles if you say this one with misplaced emphasis, silly context where it could be somehow construed sexually or if everyone has had enough Presidentes (popular brand of Dominican cerveza nacional) that night.

    19. Estoy caliente

    Clean meaning: There is no clean meaning, this is just an all-around sexual thing to say—but lots of Spanish learners say it.

    Dirty meaning: I’m hot/smokin’/feeling quiggly

    Classic. The ol’ “Estoy caliente” instead of “Tengo calor” switcharoo. Many Spanish learners have fallen to this phrase before you, and it never fails to elicit a sidelong glance or giggle from native conversation partners. You were trying to say that you feel hot due to the current temperature or climate, and instead you boasted about your hot bod or eagerness for intimate encounters.”

    Where to go from here?

    You can always learn more Spanish words by checking out free Spanish classes online, using Memrise to memorize more words, or working with a private Spanish coach on websites like Rype.

    More by this author

    Sean Kim

    Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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