things that make you go hmmm…

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courtesy of

I haven’t discussed languages recently, so I thought today would be a good day to revisit language differences. Learning a new language is fun and exciting..!! But, it can also be challenging and confusing..!! For starters, there are all those new words to learn. Then, there are all the cultural nuances. How people speak in real life is never like a language textbook. For example, most Mexicans do not use the complete por favor for please in casual company. They use the term porfa. They also don’t always say si for yes. In casual conversation, Mexicans use the terms simon and sip; similar to Americans usage of yep and yup for yes.

Then of course, there is the issue of speaking another language. It has been documented that if a person speaks two languages, it will be easier for them to learn another. In my case, I speak Croatian and English. While sometimes, I found that to be true while learning Spanish. Othertimes, I felt it would have been less confusing if I spoke less languages. Or maybe just less embarrassing 🙂

It is amazing how many words there are in languages that are very similar and have the same meaning. For example, the word mother. Variations of that word include ma, mama, mami, madre and mère in English, Croatian, Spanish and French. Even chocolate has similar connotations – chocolate, chocolate, čokolada and chocolat. But of course, we are not here to discuss the words that are safe. We are here to discuss those words that could get you in trouble or at least make your friends laugh at you for long periods of time 🙂

My first example is the Croatian word for home – kuća. Now if you say this word really fast on the phone at the airport while talking to your father, it is possible your Mexican boyfriend will hear you say cuchi..!! This is not good because in Mexico, cuchi cuchi refers to having sex or making love. This little word will cause your boyfriend to look at you cross eyed and wonder what sort of dysfunctional family raised you.

Another word to be wary of is the Croatian word for small – malo/mala. Of course in Mexican, malo/malo refers to bad. You can see how referring to small things as bad or bad things as small can get you into a lot of trouble. This is further compounded in the Yucatan by the fact that the word malo in Mayan means good..!! I mean seriously..?! How confusing can this get..?!

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courtesy of

Now some of you may remember the Mexican restaurant Chi-Chi’s. It was pretty popular in the States during the 1980s and 1990s. The restaurant celebrated Mexican food and life..!! For most of us gringos the word didn’t mean anything. In fact, for the longest time I thought the word was made up. But in the Mexican language, the word actually means boobies..!! Who knew..?! Thousands of suburbanites for years going to eat at Boobies restuarant. I guess, in some regards, this is similar to eating at Hooters. But at least we knew what Hooters meant..!! A little bit of knowledge is a powerful tool.

When I first started learning Spanish – very early beginning stages – I would practice my Spanish everywhere. This practice included facebook posts in Spanish. One day, I posted – yo tengo una pregunta. This translates to – I have a question. Unwittingly, I brought a deluge of responses from my non-Spanish speaking friends who thought I had just posted that I was pregnant. I guess pregunta and pregnant seemed similar to them. By the way the actual post, if I was pregnant would have read – estoy embarazada.

My final example is the word molest. In English, molest means a sexual assualt or abuse. However, in Mexico, the word or verb in this case, molestar, is commonly used as to bother. So you can imagine my linguistic surprise when one of my male friends called me fairly late at night and said – Lo siento, no fue mi intención molestarte tan tarde. I’m thinking “ah yeah, I hope you feel that way all the time”. But of course he was only referring to waking me up so late not in the sexual context used in the States.

So remember, the next time someone calls you using the words malo, chi chis, cuchi, pregunta and molestar – you need to take the person and the country in context. They could be asking you a question about not wanting to bother you at your small house for dinner and that Chi-Chi’s restuarant would be a better option..!! Or they could be telling you that your bad (dirty) boobies make them want to have sex with you and make some babies..!! It’s important to know the difference before you answer yes or no. Unless of course your answer would be the same regardless….jajaja 🙂

9 thoughts on “things that make you go hmmm…

  1. I know LOL is overused but you really did make me laugh out loud. Thanks for brightening up one of my late night shifts at work. And I love your “jajajaja”. Just yesterday my husband got a facebook message from one of his new Mexican friends that signed off with “jajajaja”. It took me, with my just completed six week course in introductory Spanish, to inform him that it meant “hahahaha”. See, I’m learning!

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post..!! I am trying really hard to remember all of my silly language mistakes going both ways because they are pretty hilarious. And I know what you mean about the jaja. The first time I saw it – I didn’t get it. And don’t get me started on texting in Spanish – it’s a whole other language..!! I am glad though that your Spanish lessons are coming in handy – you’ll be fluent in no time 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on howdoyousaytacoinspanish and commented:

    Dear readers and fellow bloggers.! I am in the process of moving and my life is in chaos.!! Albeit the good kind 🙂 Unfortunately, I have not had time to write a fresh blog for today.! Fortunately, I think it’s time to revisit one of my earlier blogs.!! Enjoy 🙂 See you for Tecate this weekend. I surely think I will need one after moving day.! jajaja…

  4. Super interesting how you compare various languages to Spanish. But we don’t need to go that far to get into trouble speaking Spanish because many embarrassing things can happen within the same language. Just by stepping out of your country and saying an innocent word can get you in trouble. For example, bicho is an insect, but in Puerto Rico is a vulgar word for penis. Cafre in Mexico is a person that drives aggressively, but in Puerto Rico is a low class low mannered person. Pinche in Mexico is something bad, poor quality, but for me is a clothes pin or hair pin. In some parts of Cuba, papaya is a word for vagina… and the list continues! Good luck with your moving!

    • Thank you Diana 🙂 And I agree with you.! It is so easy to commit embarrassing faux pas within the same language. When I went to visit my family in Croatia, I had a layover in Vienna. Every single Croatian family member called Vienna by it’s proper Croatian translation which is Beč. That doesn’t seem so bad, right.?! Until you realize that Beč sounds like ‘b*tch’ in English.!!! Needless to say, I just kept calling it Vienna.!! hahahahaha…

      Thank you for the kind words about my move.! Hopefully it will be easy peasy.!

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