Monthly Archives: February 2017

11 more Spanish words/phrases that will make you laugh and/or give mind-bends

Dear readers,

Just over a year ago, I wrote a blog article with 11 Spanish words and phrases that would make you chuckle and/or scratch your skull when they translated into English.

I have since been compiling more Spanish words and phrases, picked up much the same way my parrot Frida picks up our diverse humanoid chatter. Hailing from all parts of the Spanish speaking world, you’ll find Hondurisms (often referred to as caliché), Spain and various novels from South America.

So, take your minds off corrupt politicians, global warming, terrorism, wars and misery, and enjoy a bit of Spanglish brain food.

1. Ahorita

Diminutives are common in the idioma española. “What’s a diminutive?” you say. In short, it’s when you add ito/ita to a word to make subject/object smaller and/or more affectionate. Sometimes it can mean adding cito/cita or quita/quito depending on the last couple of letters of the base word. For instance, guapa (pronounced wapa) meaning good looking girlcan be transformed to guapita, becoming little good looking girl.

So, take ahorita, the base word being ahora meaningnow. You might be thinking how do I make the meaning of a word like ahora into something smaller and more affectionate without breaking the rules of relativity. Don’t worry, it perplexed me too when I first stepped foot in the Americas. But after little time, I was ahorita’ing it all over the place, which friends in Spain have noticed more than anyone. My amigos in Valencia claim I’ve forgotten their Castilian Spanish and been replaced with a Mexican hybrid.

Now, en ingles, means the present moment. Well, so does ahorita, but it also reaches into the future, as well as used to express the urgency of something happening that very second.

So, a sentence might look something like this:

Mira esta mamacita. Quiero besarla ahorita. (Look at the hot momma. I want to kiss her right now).

For a graphic explanation with a timeline, see the image below:

The meaning of ahorita

2. Palmear

This verb is pinched from a Mario Vargas Llosa novel, though I don’t hear it widely used in Honduras, nor did I in Spain, so I presume it’s used more in Peru; Vargas’s homeland. Then again, this context is not used in everyday, so it’s not that surprising I’ve not heard it much.

As you can see, the first four letters spell palm, which should trigger off a few ideas of its English translation. Yes, you might get a few funny looks if you offered to palm someone, interpreted as a possible veiled threat of violence or act of perversion. However, it actually means to pat or applaud someone, to be affectionate or congratulate a person; just a friendly palmear una espalda – pat on the back between acquaintances and/or friends.

3. Gustazazaso

A bit of a tongue twister, this, which could be incorporated into a drinking game! It is yet another word coming from a Mario Vargas Llosa novel although when I first laid eyes on it, dictionaries also had little or zero definitions.

However, a little investigation and common sense is always needed when coming across new vocabulary. The verb gustar is one of the first words to learn in the Spanish language, meaning to like, and you’re not wrong in thinking the two words are from the same family. The base form gustazo means take pleasure in something. Like ito/ita is used at the end of a word to minimise something, azo/aza is used to maximise, also known as an aumentative. So, gustazazaso means, as you may well have guessed, is to take great pleasure in something. Not in anything perverted, mind, but more so with someone you’ve not seen in a while.

4. Macizo

Quite simply one of my favourite caliché words, meaning cool. Not as in a cool beer kind of way, but a cool beer is cool way.

It’s pronounced ma-si-so with a stress on the middle syllable. I learned it at Casa Alianza and it has stuck to me ever since, although I did it pass it on to my brother, niece and nephew, who walk around saying the one word that epitomises street caliqué in a quaint village in Worcestershire, England.

How do we put this is a sentence?

You: Gané tres mil en el loto. (I won three thousand on the lottery).

Me: Macizo. Invítame a un six pack, pues. (Cool. Buy me a six pack of beer then).

5. Simón

Yes, this vastly popular name, which derives from the Hebrew name Simeon and featured in the Old Testament as one of the sons of Job, is also a street slang word from northern Mexico, which has filtered through to Honduras. It means ‘yes, okay’ in response or to acknowledge something that someone has said to you.

Why the name Simon, I don’t know. Whether it derives from a person of signficance called Simon in Tijuana or goes back to the Aztec languages, it is what it is. However, as it is pronounced sí mon,so taking a wild guess, could beyes and mon might be a mispronunciation of man, so it could actually mean a merge of yes, man.

I heard it for the first time from a kid in Casa Alianza who enjoyed confusing me in Spanish. Then last year I taught a young man called Yeison Rosado (who humorously called himself Mr. Pink and even wrote it on his exam paper. Also, rosado means pink for those not clear on the joke) who used to repeat it a loud after every time I’d said something. I eventually had to ban the word from the classroom because it drove me mental, so I figure the word simón is a must on this list. A banned word thanks to a man called Mr. Pink

Me: The present perfect in English includes the auxiliary verb have, followed by the past participle.

Mr. Pink: Simón.

6. A huevos

To beginners in Spanish, you probably recognise the word huevos from the dairy foods lesson. It means eggs after all (it can also be a slang term for a man’s eggs, if you see what I mean). A is the preposition to in English.

So the expression literally translates word for word as to eggs.

Yet the expression has nothing to do with eggs. In fact, it has a couple of different meanings depending on which country one lives in, although I’ll concentrate on the most common, which is something similar to simón casually confirm a yes or acknowledge something someone’s said. It also depends on the tone, because it can be read as a sarcastic yes  if the person before you said something unrealistic, a demand or basically untrue. I must add that it’s not the politest expression in the idioma española.

So, a non-sarcastic toned example might be:

Me: Alguien hizo un pedo. (Someone’s farted).

You: A huevos. (Yep).

A sarcastic toned example might be:

Me: Dame tres mil Lempiras. (Give me three thousand Lempiras).

You (with sarcastic facial expression): A huevos (Yeah, right).

7. Berenjenal

My Spanish teacher Ado taught me this one back at the language school Estudio Sampere in Madrid. She was a pretty young lady from Andalucía with dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, the romantic fantasy that most foreign men think of when it comes to Spanish beauty. Funnily enough she had every male in the class (a few females too) hanging on her every word. What’s more, she was flamboyant and dynamic and had the raspy tongue of a truck driver, teaching us words she really shouldn’t have, which kept the class captivated.

And she used this word berenjenal to describe a classmate called John, who she also called el vikingo – the viking – because he hailed from Sweden, making poor old John from Malmö clown of the class. The thing is, John didn’t exactly help himself. He would spend all day partaking in an old Swedish tradition of sticking tiny pouches of tobacco called snus by his gums. He would do it during class, and one time Ado paused the class to say in a rather derogatory and patronising tone, ¡Que berenjenal! which left everyone in hysterics and John with a deflated ego.

So, what does berenjenal mean? It has two, actually. The first, and I’ll get this out the way quickly, is an eggplant field, and I don’t think Ado was calling John an eggplant field.

The second meaning is far more fitting, which is a coloquial noun for a mess/trouble in a Laurel and Hardy kind of way.

So, an example might be: en buen berenjenal nos hemos metido which roughly translates as what a fine mess we’ve got ourselves into.

8. Carpeta

In my CELTA course, we learned about false friends. In ESL talk, a false friend is a word that looks similar to a word in a different language but actually means something completely different. Embarazada means pregnant and sensible means sensitive for example. Well, carpeta is another false friend.

It actually means folder – either electronic or paper – rather than the carpet that goes on the floor.

So, you can say: 

Mi perro comió mi carpeta. (My dog ate my folder).

It might confuse someone, however, if you say:

Mi perro hizo una caca en mi carpeta. (My dog did a poo on my folder).

9. Chamba

This is another very colloquial Honduran word, meaning job, although I vaguely remember the word meaning luck in Spain. There isn’t really an equivalent in English, and it isn’t the politest word for job, which no one told me before I embarrassed myself in front of a former employer during a performance review.

Boss: ¿Que tal el trabajo? (How is work?)

Me: Bueno, me gusta mi chamba . . .(Well, l like my job…)

Cue that look and a firm explanation that chamba is not an acceptable word to use in that particular work place. Luckily the boss understood that my faux pas wasn’t meant to offend and I still got a pay rise. Get in!

10. Dos veinte

I came across this expression about a year ago and it again involves our friend Yeison Rosado (aka. Mr Pink). You see, Mr Pink was sometimes a bit over enthusiastic about learning English, and while I encourage a positive attitude to learning, it could get bloody irritating when he talked over people, myself included. 

Classmates then started calling him dos-veinte which led me into a word of  confusion. To those not in the know, dos means two and veinte means twenty, so why on earth call someone two twenty?

Well, as it turns out, they were calling him something that pretty much describes him to a T. Dos veinte is used for someone who’s hyperactive or crazy, and with his blowing kisses at female classmates and drinking two cups of strong coffee during a one hour class, as I said, suits him down to a T. We always remember life’s interesting characters, don’t we!

You’re probably still thinking, how dos veinte mean hyperactive, though?  Well, it applies to the plug sockets we use for the more powerful electrical appliances around the house i.e. fridges and cookers, etc. 

An example might be: 

Este majé es dos veinte. (This dude’s hyperactive).

11. Cae el veinte

That number veinte, again. A common number in Honduran expressions, it seems, although I think it is used throughout much of the Spanish speaking world. I like it. And again it was often used upon Mr. Pink.

Let me explain, cae comes from the verb caer which means to drop/to fall. If we put that together, drops the twenty, or in better English, the twenty drops, do you have any clues of its meaning in English? i.e. has the penny dropped yet? Funny that, because that is roughly how it translates: the penny drops.

Now I’m not sure how the penny drops gets its meaning in English, although I was told by someone here, but I can’t remember who, that cae el veinte comes from the time when public telephones were all the rage. You would let you 20 cent piece drop through the slot and you would be able to speak to whoever. This might be the origin but I might be wrong. However, the meaning is when someone tells you something but you don’t understand at first but you finally do through prompts and nudges.

Well Mr. Pink, for all his enthusiasm and infinite wisdom, often took a little while longer than classmates to understand how to use bits of vocabulary and grammar. To be fair, once the cae el veinte took place, he would use it more industrially and humorously than anyone I had met before.

Well, finally I have cae el veinte and realised 11 is just enough for you guys. Please give me feedback. If I have made a mistake or you have an alternative origin or meaning to the above words, let me know. Also, if you have any other Spanish words that might be of interest, leave a comment below.


Artículo sobre Leicester City en Heraldo

Queridos lectores,

Escribí este artículo sobre el Leicester City para El Heraldo online.

Aquí es un link.

Espero que te gusta.

Conmigo Para Siempre por Rubén Martínez

Queridos lectores,

Estaba comprando una botella de agua esta mañana, cuando conocí al señor de abajo. Se llama Rubén Martínez. No sé mucho de historia, pero un caballero lo es.

Muchas personas piden dinero aquí, especialmente a un hombre con pelo rubio y ojos azules, pero a menudo no ofrecen nada a cambio, a menos que sea para lavar el parabrisas con agua sucia. No es una queja, sino simplemente una realidad. Sin embargo, este caballero ofreció uno de sus poemas. Así pues, como un favor de un escritor a otro, por favor encuentre su poema abajo, titulado Conmigo Para Siempre

No somos gringos

Queridos lectores,

Esta artículo yo escribí para La Tribuna hace unas semanas.

Yo soy britanico. Somos muy pocos en Honduras. Por lo general, estamos encasillado bajo el título gringo. Color de piel y pelo, sí, lo entendemos. Pero es un titulo de lo que tratamos de distanciarnos. Después de todo, todos queremos sentirnos independientes de un poder superior. Sin embargo, políticamente, nos encontramos que no tenemos donde agarrarse, y esto nos deja decepcionados.

Si algún Catrachos ha estado en el Reino Unido y los EEUU, usted sabría que nuestras culturas y valores son una brecha de diferencia. Nos gusta considerar a los EE.UU. como nuestro hermano menor petulento, poco realista como es, mientras que gran parte de la Europa nos ve de la misma manera. Un gran parte de nuestro carácter y sentimientos se encuentra en la letra de la canción de An Englishman in New York de Sting, ya sea nuestra preferencia por el té en el café, la diferencia en el tono de nuestros acentos, o nuestra compleja variedad de cortesía y modales que son estrafalario a algunos, mientras que el esnobismo para otros.

También nos gusta proteger nuestra identidad frente a la globalización 《mientras intentamos ignorar el hecho de que intentamos globalizar el mundo hace 300 años》que es una de las muchas razones por las que la gente votó por Brexit. Estamos orgullosos de nuestro patrimonio cultural, ya sea nuestra contribución a la música, nuestra arquitectura, nuestra fish and chips y roast dinners, nuestra sentido de humor especial, las cabinas telefónicas rojas, la revolución industrial, la cerveza oscura, la bandera de Union Jack o ser los creadores oficiales del deporte más popular del mundo. Ser británico para algunos sigue siendo una marca exitosa, a pesar de lo mucho que ha disminuido en valor.

La victoria de Trump en las elecciones estadounidenses envió olas de choque en todo el mundo, y el Reino Unido no fue la excepción. Sin embargo, reflejó patrones de votación similares al voto de Brexit que ocurrió unos meses antes 《¡no pensamos que sucedería, pero lo hizo!》 y las repercusiones del racismo, la hostilidad y las protestas han sido demasiado similares para la comodidad. Las clases trabajadoras votaron contra la élite política en favor de algo desconocido, demagógico y basado en mentiras, a pesar de que se mordiera el trasero. La sensación de recuperar algo que siempre estará fuera de alcance de todos modos era demasiado poderoso.

Desde la inauguración de Trump el 20 de enero, los líderes políticos han andado con pies de plomoen que se saludan y/o critican el presidente. Pero ha sido nuestro primer ministro Theresa May la que ha sido el más tedioso, orgullosa de ser el primer líder político en reunirse con Trump, a una distancia de los pensamientos y sentimientos del pueblo británico, mientras que líderes más valientes como Hollande y Peña han sido mucho más franco sobre su condena por lo que parece un demagogo sexista y xenófobo.

Entonces, ¿por qué esta “relación especial” con los EE.UU., entonces? Emm, bueno. Esto confunde a mucho del pueblo de británicos y americanos, también, basado en intereses de negocio más bien que unidad civil. Leímos muchas de estas relaciones  especiales durante las guerras iraquíes, las cuales la mayoría de los británicos votaron en contra. Parece haber resurgido de nuevo, pero como una narrativa mediática creada por la élite política británica. Sin embargo, lo más preocupante para los británicos es cómo la élite estadounidense valora esta relación, como parece en una quilla muy desigual, con ojos capitalistas dispuestos a explotar los intereses comerciales de un imperio muerto, que recientemente tomó la decisión de votar fuera de la Mercado Común Europeo. Si algo, se siente que hemos dejado un mal matrimonio y ahora a punto de entrar en un peor.

Mi mensaje a los hondureños es no leer demasiado en esta relación especial. Somos buddies, mas o menos. Pero esta relación especial es un matrimonio para algunos pocos. Y también, a pesar de mi cabello rubio, ojos azules y piel pálida, trata de llamarme cualquier cosa, pero no gringo.

Act Now

Dear readers,

I was awoken by the need to write this poem. Destiny or something.

Act Now

Drips drop in the sink,
Ticks tock in the clock,
Yet the loudest thing I hear are my thoughts.
Reflections create faces,
Empty objects in open spaces,
Why now is my imagination caught?
Ghosts weave in and out rooms,
Breaking memories from angry tombs,
Forgotten lessons I thought I’d been taught.
Things said and done awake,
To souls I love or hate,
Tell me it’s time to let go.
The angel whispers wisdom,
While the demon tweets out poision,
Sowing seeds I don’t really understand.
Pen in hand,
Thoughts falling through like sand,
I quickly write the first thing that comes to mind:

“Revenges not avenged
Have left other projects imcomplete,
Don’t let that be your legacy.”

Slumber won’t seduce me,
Yet dawn doesn’t enthuse me,
I’m left with the ultimatium before me.

Act now, before it’s too late.

Freedom Writers and Imperial Dreams

Dear readers,

Just to follow on today’s blog post about the US working class, I must confess, it was not just inspired by recent political events. In the past week, I have watched two excellent movies set in the projects in Los Angeles. I’ve never paid much attention to the ghetto genre, especially those set in the 1990s, mainly due to the violence. I didn’t really identify with characters, probably because I grew up in a middle class suburb in the UK.

That doesn’t mean gang violence doesn’t happen or has never happened around the city. It’s nearly 15 years ago, but I remember when two innocent girls, Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare, were murdered in a case of mistaken identity, so it seems, by a gang. One of the killers turned out to be the half brother of one of the girls. I was studying at Bournville College of Further Education at the time and was good friends with a boy who used to hang out with them. He was going to go out with the girls the night they were killed but he was apparently grounded.

It happened in the Aston/Lozells area. I’ve only passed through and I don’t know it well. It has a reputation, and I think the closest to what in the USA calls a project. Still, it was a world I was very much removed from and didn’t really comprehend the realities of these neighbourhoods, yet it had an impact on me, like did for many in the city.

Like I said above, I don’t really identify with ghetto movies, mainly due to the violence being glorified. In both Freedom Writers and Imperial Dreams, however, there is more emphasis on the social issues in the neighbourhoods, whether it be alcoholism, drugs, racial tension, poverty, domestic violence, lack of education, unemployment, poverty, gang affiliation and imprisonment. Violence does feature, but it does revolve around it, but looks at the trauma and the fear of it.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I don’t know about Imperial Dreams, but Freedom Writers is based on a true story, when a new, naive teacher was thrown into the deep-end and was teaching a mix of students with low grades from the projects. From a middle class background, she had no idea of the realities of the kids. She struggled at first but she inspired them to write diaries, as well as the opportunity to read new literature. The diaries became a nationwide, then international, project for many inner-city schools with problems with violence throughout the 90s. There is a picture of the original class below. A former colleague recommended it a couple of years ago but I forgot all about it until last weekend and I remembered how taken he was with it. I won’t tell you much more, other than it is moving, it stars Hilary Swank, it’s 10 years old and you can catch it on Netflix.

Imperial Dreams is about a boy who leaves prison and returns to the project he’s from. He makes his son his first priority and tries to get a job so he doesn’t have to return to a criminal life. He too is a writer. Maybe that’s what I also like about both the stories. This movie is also on Netflix, stars John Boyega (from Star Wars) and won various awards.

I’ll finish there for now so not to leave spoilers. Enjoy!

Reflection on Brexit and Trump vote, and the American working class

Dear readers,

I’ve always considered myself socially conscious. My parents brought me up that way. My brother and sister have similar sentiments. Embrace different cultures and understand social classes, respecting all despite their backgrounds and race. We were watching Ken Loach films from the age of six (I remember Kes of so well) and my mother used to take me along to her job at Sparkhill College of Further Education where she taught adult learning skills. It was a rich source of early learning, where I was subconsciously being taught about people different to myself, especially of differing skin colours and accents. They were always sweet, always generous. Why would I have expected anything else?

Sparkhill is a culturally diverse area in Birmingham, a melting pot for each wave of new immigrant through the ages, whether it Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Kosavan and, in recent years, east African, whether it Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Apparently, Sparkhill is the setting and based on the BBC comedy Citizen Khan (which I must admit, very red-faced, I have never seen). You can see it in the graffiti; United Ireland has now been replaced with Free Gaza, and pubs are now tandoori rrestaurants fish and chip bars now sell kebabs, and churches sit next door to mosques and Sikh temples. This is common throughout many British cities, a diversity of races which many of us embrace. In recent months it’s been the source of much contention with Brexit, and with Trump in the US.

I don’t want to appear conceited, but my wife has told me my social conscious is something she most admires about me, although she can equally make fun of me about it. Yesterday, for example, while celebrating Valentines Day (two days early) in El Cumbre (now I will appear conceited, because El Cumbre is a luxurious restaurant in El Hatillo, Tegucigalpa, with amazing views of the city), I spread out my arms and said, “It’s amazing to think that 1.5 millions people live in the city before us.”

Her reply, “This is not the time nor the place to go on about poverty!”

Back to Brexit and Trump, I’m middle-class British. I don’t think I’m elitist, though many might disagree. I voted Remain and I wouldn’t have voted for Trump (nor Clinton) had I been able to. I did a blog post days after the Brexit victory, in which I expressed my surprise, as well as my predictions and thoughts for the future. However, having witnessed the impossible with Brexit, it made the Trump victory not a surprise in the slightest, despite all the scandal around him.

It’s so easy to paint the opposition with a certain brush. There are racist elements to both the Brexit and Trump campaigns, as well as a particular snobbery from the Remain and Clinton voters. However, I, like many, have had time to reflect on what’s happened, especially the working class vote, and also different reasons for voting Brexit other than the scare mongering, misleading and bullshit, which made a mockery of democracy.

I have made my curiosity of the American working class known before on this blog. I know it has always existed, but my vision of it was mainly movies, documentaries and television shows such as Shameless. I expanded my knowledge by reading about blue and white-collar workers in Alistair Campbell’s Letters from America.

I saw working class Americans for the first time with Pamela when we stopped off in Miami en route to the UK. I remember going to Fort Lauderdale and visiting what the guide book described as a flea market. You never expect to meet royalty at a flea market, but this was not something I imagined. Pamela made me swear to never take her back there (mainly because there was a stall selling nothing but porn), but it was a market that both time and the American Dream had forgotten. People were selling random bits of houseware, much of it broken, that was to be bought only out of charity. Blacks, whites, Latinos, people from the Middle East. All desperate. And this was during Obama’s time. Many Brits are probably reading this and thinking, “You’ve not seen what seven years of austerity and welfare cuts have done to your own country.” No, I’ve not. But this was in a country that boasts about being the richest and most powerful in the world.

For an outsider, it’s hard to know what’s glamorized (or un-glamorized, in many cases) and what’s not from the media. Maybe me wondering such things makes me look very out of touch, which of course I am, because I don’t personally know many working class Americans, and having lived outside the UK for six years, my only contact with working class Brits is through mates on Facebook and secondary information I read in books and newspapers. Statistics and ratios of murders or violent crime doesn’t necessarily reflect the working classes correctly. In fact just to suggest it is elitist and snobbish, and I’m sure getting type casted like this gets bloody annoying. The mainstream media, as it does in most countries around the globe, often demonises the working class. They have done for centuries, labelling them trailer trash, hillbillies or red necks, while politicians disregard or persecute them. We all know though, that the mainstream media and politicians often walk hand-in-hand.

Something that always interests me, however, is how working class musicians rise through the ranks. Like Britain, the US often relies on the working class artists to produce its music, whether they be white, Italian, black or Latino. Bruce Springsteen and Eminem, to Frank Sinatra and Madonna, to Tracey Chapman to 50 Cent, plus many more, who, when allowed, have given us glimpses of their reality, concepts of poverty and what it’s like to live without.

Yes. You can see why the working classes voted anti-establishment, even if it doesn’t necessarily benefit though. Without wanting to offend the working class, but if you have nothing, and one corporate politician offers you the same, while the other offers greatness, you’ll be willing to forgive the scandal and nonsense. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Below are two more in depth articles that might interest you about working class Americans.

– Eviction Crisis – The Guardian

– What People Don’t Get About the US Working Class

Please add any comments below, especially if you are, or consider yourself, working class American. Maybe I’m missing out on something, or I’ve touched a nerve unintentionally. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.