Read an Excerpt
It’s true. The real Spanish no teacher dared to bring into the classroom is now at your fingertips:
¡AY, MIERDA! COJI EL TREN INCORRECTO.
(Oh, shit, I took the wrong train.)
ESTOY EN MARAVILLA QUE TODAVIA VIVO. ¡AY, DIOS, QUE NOCHE BRUTA!
(I’m amazed I’m still alive. Oh, God, what a bitchin’ night!)
NO ME FRIEGAS!
(Don’t jerk me around!)
SOSPECHO QUE TIENEN LOS DOS TODO EL TALENTO EN LA GLORIA.
(I think they both have all their brains in their genitals.)
(Go have sexual intercourse with yourself!)
And dozens more words, phrases, and mini-conversations for everything you always needed to say in Spanish—but nobody ever told you how!
Frances de Talavera Berger has lived in Mexico, Spain, and Los Angeles, California—where she has never been at a loss for words.
The Real Spanish You Were Never Taught in School
Frances de Talevera Berger
Illustrated by Michael Heath
Castilian! The very sight of the word still gives you fits, doesn’t it? Remember the mind-boggling struggles with that too inflexible, autocratic dialect which, for obvious reasons, will always be the basis for teaching Spanish? Sure, you’ve studied very hard and the pitfalls of those lispy cetas and mystifying tildes have been hurdled. You feel you have a reasonable, functional command of Spanish. But do you? Think back a little. Remember that Argentinian art film you could barely understand? Or how about the latest East L.A. salsa flick, supposedly in English but very heavy on Latino slang? Might as well be listening to Martian, right? Worse still, relive that mortifying moment on your first trip to Mexico when, awestruck by the grandeur of the world’s largest pyramid, you gave vent to ecstasy in your best scholarly Spanish—while two natives nearby stared first at you, then at each other, and then politely but so disdainfully rolled their eyes toward heaven!
Well, stop fretting. Basically, the problem is that your Spanish is probably too prim, too proper, too formal for just plain necessary communication. You weren’t taught the colorful dirty words and fanciful phrases that are the heart and soul of this multiregional, dynamic language. Why, normal Hispanic usage practically demands heavy doses of superb vulgarismo (slang) and a heady repertoire of hard-core curses! Here, then, is an introductory guide to basic profanities without, however, any pretense toward the dogmatic or definitive. So hang in there—and you’ll learn how everyday Spanish is really spoken, all the way from Pamplona to Tierra del Fuego.
Asterisks after words indicate a degree of dirtiness beyond the ordinary colloquial. A one-asterisk word may be used casually, but with moderation. As for the two-asterisk word, don’t let it fill you with stark horror. Try it out, here and there. Play with it, cleverly. Go on, be brave. You’ll soon find that the trick is to use it at just the right time and for just the right circumstance.
When not directly translatable, English definitions are given as close an equivalent as possible. But don’t worry, the intent and flavor remain unspoiled.
An abbreviation will appear if a word or phrase is used mainly in the vernacular of a particular region or country: Spain = SPN; Mexico = MX; Puerto Rico = PR; East Los Angeles = ELA; Panama = PAN; Colombia = COL; Argentina = ARG; West Indies = W IND; Central America = C AMR; Cuba = CU. Also, since a majority of Hispanics concentrated in the American Northeast and Southwest are inventing a robust, ribald dialect of their own, Spanglish will be indicated as SPNGL when apropos.
Both Proper and Profane
Even the most common words have much juicier colloquial counterparts. Hispanics take great pride in applying as many words as possible to any and all objects—vegetable, mineral, and human. And if the language should fail to describe or impart one’s exact meaning, there is no hesitation whatsoever to invent words, borrowing freely snips and pieces from other dialects and even from other languages. This isn’t considered a bad habit. (Let the purists be damned!) On the contrary, it’s applauded as imaginative and artistic. To a Latino, born with the compulsion of a poet, the most important thing in the world is to get his or her meaning across.
We begin with the proper—the lofty Castilian of the hidalgos—but then adjust quickly, of course, to the necessary and inventive profanities of the modern Hispanic tongue.
una guapa (handsome—nice)
una mamita* (in this case, not nice)