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SPANISH LANGUAGE

Getting explicit: How to swear like a Spaniard

Everyone in Spain, from sweet little kids to frail old ladies, peppers their everyday conversation with enough swearwords to make a sailor blush. Here's how to join in.

Getting explicit: How to swear like a Spaniard
Peppering your speech with Joder is completely fine in Spain. Photo: amordebarrio.com

Forget swearing like a trooper, the real phrase should be swearing like a Spaniard.

Unlike in many other countries, references to toilet habits, male and female genitalia and other taboo subjects pop up in general conversations all the time without anyone giving it a second thought. 

What’s all this about people doing their business in the milk? And why do testicles keep being mentioned?

Swearing in Spain is as common as it is ludicrous, so if you wish to embrace the ever-present potty language or simply want to understand what your Spanish friends are trying to convey, read on!

But beware, the longer you live in Spain, the more normal you’ll think it is to drop rude words into everyday conversation.


Photo: Vengel Crimson

¡Me cago en la leche!: Spaniards metaphorically crap on all kinds of things when they want to express anger or frustration; from God Almighty (Dios), to your mother (tu madre) and the salty sea (la mar salada). Perhaps the most bizarre thing they choose to mentally defecate on is ‘the milk’. All these expressions sound very vulgar in English but in Spanish they’re so common most recipients would barely bat an eyelid (unless it’s directed at their mothers).

READ MORE: Five ways that ‘leche’ means more than just ‘milk’ in Spain


Photo: Kristem Shoemaker

¡Qué coñazo!: If you think this translation sounds bad enough, let us assure you the more literal one would have sounded a lot worse. If something is a drag you use the expression ¡Qué coñazo!. The Spanish C-word, much more socially acceptable than in English-speaking countries, is also used to express everything from surprise to indignation: ¡Coño!. Don’t be surprised if you hear everyone from grandmothers to schoolkids shouting it out at top volume.


Photo: David Goehring/Flickr

¡Hostia! (host/sacramental bread): Probably the most common form of blasphemy used by Spaniards. If someone or something is la hostia, it is amazing or the bee’s knees. ¡Hostia! on its own is used as damn or bloody hell are in English. Then there’s to give someone a host, dar una hostia, which means to smack or hit someone.


Photo: Francesco Rachello

Estar pedo/llevar un pedo: ‘To be fart’ or ‘to carry a fart’ has nothing to do with flatulence surprisingly. Although the word for a fart in Spanish is pedo, the expressions are a colloquial way of saying ‘to be drunk’. For interest’s sake, in Spanish you throw a fart if you want to say you’ve passed wind – tirarse un pedo. Not that you would make that public knowledge!


Photo: Alec Schueler

Me importa tres cojones: This saying means ‘I couldn’t give a damn’ in English. Why testicles?, you may ask. Well, cojones (balls/nuts in English) is commonly recognised as the Spanish word with the highest number of derivative meanings. It’s used as a verb (acojonar – to scare), as an adjective (acojonante – amazing) and many more! Even the number of cojones can change the whole meaning of the sentence: ¡Y un cojón! means ‘not a chance!’ while hacer algo con dos cojones means to be brave.


Photo: Paolo Camera

De puta madre: Calling someone a hijo de puta (son of a bitch) might land you in trouble in Spain despite the customary use of swearwords by many Spaniards. But the most common superlative in colloquial Spanish is de puta madre, which means great or awesome. It can also be used as an adverb: juega de puta madre – he plays really well.


Photo: Thomas Beck

Llevar los huevos de corbata: Male genitalia used again in a common colloquial expression in Castilian Spanish. To wear your balls as a tie translates as being tense or nervous. In fact, Spaniards will often hold their throat and say ‘this is where I have my balls’- con los huevos aquí – when they want to express nervousness or fear.


Photo: Joseph Choi

¡Está que te cagas1: Why something being good would induce toilet troubles is another mystery. But Spaniards, mainly young ones, will very often use this saying when they’re excited about how great something is. There’s also ‘¡Cágate!’, or crap yourself. You say this when you want to express shock or surprise.

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SPANISH LANGUAGE

Ten Spanish mistakes even Spaniards make

Frustrated with your Spanish? Don't sweat it: Even native speakers sometimes make mistakes. Here we list some of the most common ones - all in the name of making you feel better about yourself of course.

Ten Spanish mistakes even Spaniards make

It turns out English speakers don’t have a monopoly on mangling their language. Spanish speakers pepper their speech and writing with errors too.

A book published by Spain’s Cervantes Institute – Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español – tackles the 500 thorniest issues faced by native speakers of Spanish.

From spellings, kiosco or quiosco? (you’ll see both) – to accents – porque or porqué? (the second is a noun meaning ‘reason’ or ‘motive’) – this article will help you clear up your doubts about the language.

But basta (or should that be vasta?) with all the small talk. Let’s get on with it.

¿Te escucho mal o te oigo mal?

I’m listening to you badly (‘te escucho mal‘) may sound horribly wrong in English but in Spanish, it’s become so widely used most Spaniards won’t even pick up on this bizarre mistake. The right answer is ‘te oigo mal‘ (I can’t hear you).

Te oigo mal. Photo: Robin Higgins / Pixabay
 

¿Ahí, hay o ay? 

Ouch! Wasn’t Spanish meant to be an easy language phonetically speaking? These three words are almost pronounced the same but may cause some Spaniards a headache when putting pen to paper. Hay (there is/are), ‘ahí‘ (over there) and ‘ay‘ is what flamenco ‘cantaores‘ (singers) scream or what you shout out if you’re in pain.

Ay, I’m being bitten by ants. Photo: Hans / Pixabay
 

Andé o anduve? 

The past simple form of the verb ‘to walk’ (andar) in Spanish trips up many native speakers who assume it to be regular. Right answer is anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvisteis, anduvieron.

What is the past simple form of the verb ‘to walk’ (andar)? Photo: 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day / Pixabay

¿He freído o he frito? 

Brain frazzled yet? Well, not to worry because Spaniards often mix up the past participle of to fry (‘freído’) with the adjective fried (‘frito’). Food for thought.

Freído or Frito? Photo: Andrew Ridley / Unsplash

Subir para arriba, entrar para adentro, salir para afuera

In English, this would equate with ‘go up up’, ‘to go inside inside’ and ‘to go out’. It seems redundant, it’s grammatically wrong but the vast majority of Spaniards have used these forms more than once.

Subir para arriba? Photo: Bruno Nascimento / Unsplash
 

El agua, el arma, el hambre

Sometimes the gender (‘el’ or ‘la’) of nouns in Spanish is a bitch, pardon our French. It’s hard enough already for English speakers to label everything as either masculine or feminine, so when you get nouns that end with an ‘a’ but have a masculine pronoun it all gets very confusing. Still, many Spanish mistakenly say ‘este agua‘ or ‘este arma‘ when they should use ‘esta‘. 

El agua instead of La agua. Photo: rony michaud / Pixabay

¿Sólo o solo?

If you haven’t got your head around Spanish accents, rest assured many Spaniards aren’t clear on the rules either. Even the Royal Spanish Academy (the world’s chief body on the Spanish language) can’t make its mind up on whether to include an accent on ‘sólo‘ (only) or just leave it like solo (alone). Feel like you need a ‘café solo‘ (black coffee) now?

Do you need an accent with your café solo? Photo: David Schwarzenberg / Pixabay

Adding an unnecessary ‘s’ to second person past simple forms (‘fuistes’, ‘hicistes’, ‘llamastes’ and so on)

The letter ‘s’ at the end of words may be a relatively unheard sound in southern Spain, but in the rest of the Iberian peninsula, they’re rather fond of it. So much so that many Spaniards add it to verbs where it doesn’t even exist. By the way, it should be ‘fuiste’, ‘hiciste’ and ‘llamaste’.

Some Spanish people an extra ‘s’ onto words. Photo: Muhammad Haseeb Muhammad Suleman / Pixabay

¿Conducí o conduje? ¿Traducí o Traduje? 

Common verbs like ‘to drive’ and ‘to translate’ manage to catch out many Spaniards because of their unexpected irregular form in the past simple. The correct form for both verbs ends in -je, -jiste, -jo, -jimos, -jisteis and -jeron

Do you know how to say ‘I drove’ in Spanish? Photo: Pexels / Pixabay

Han solo

“What on earth is that choice of picture about?” you may ask. Well, this slide is only about one word- Han, solo. Terrible jokes aside, ‘there have been’ is not ‘han habido‘ in Spanish. The correct form is always ‘ha habido‘ but many Spaniards join the dark side. 

Han Solo. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
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