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19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless

19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless
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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 July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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