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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

The many ways Spaniards refer to your face if you’re being cheeky

If you’ve crossed the line with a Spaniard, there’s a high chance they’ll use one of a number of expressions in Spanish that refer to the face or head. Here’s the interesting reason why.

The many ways Spaniards refer to your face if you're being cheeky
Portrait of King Carlos II of Spain, whose unusual face was a product of genetic mutations from incest rather than of brazen behaviour.

Spanish speakers have a lot of ways of referring to someone who is overtly cheeky or shameless and doesn’t take others into account.

There are the terms sinvergüenza (scoundrel) or insolente (insolent/lippy) but Spanish speakers are more likely to use one of the following face and head-related expressions to call out someone’s audacity.

Caradura

Literally meaning ‘hard face’ but in fact a colloquial way of referring to someone who is overtly cheeky or shameless and doesn’t take others into account.

Example: Eres un caradura, te has comido todas mis galletas. You’re so cheeky, you ate all my biscuits.

Tener mucha cara/ser un carota

To have a lot of face or to be a big face but in fact also meaning to be cheeky.

Example: Tiene mucha cara, ha aparcado en una plaza para discapacitados. He’s shameless, he’s parked in a disabled spot.

Tener más cara que espalda

Word for word translating as having more face than back but actually meaning to have a lot of audacity or impertinence.

Example: Juan tiene mas cara que espalda, sólo sabe aprovecharse de los demás. Juan is so shameless, he takes advantage of others.

Tener morro/mucho morro/un morro que se lo pisa

Several expressions with the Spanish word for snout (to have a snout, to have a lot of snout, and to have so much snout that you step on it). They are however not used to refer to an animal’s face but a person who’s gone too far with their shameless behaviour.

Example: Tiene un morro que se lo pisa, ha cogido mi bici sin pedírmelo. The nerve she has, she’s taken my bike without asking

Por la cara/por el morro

By the face or by the snout, but really meaning scot-free, without asking.

Example: María se plantó en la fiesta por la cara aunque no estaba invitada. María turned up at the party without asking or being invited.

Ser un jeta

To be a pig or boar’s snout. You know the drill, it means to be a shameless devil.

Example: Mi hermano es un jeta, no va a clase pero se lo pagan mis padres. My brother is shameless, que doesn’t go to class even though my parents pay for it. 

And even though Spaniards don’t have the wealth of hand gestures that Italians do, they do give themselves a light slap on the cheek to refer to someone who’s being cheeky.

So what’s the origin of all these expressions and the apparent connection between the face and shameful behaviour?

Most linguistic experts seem to agree that all the facial references come from the fact that in feudal times in Spain not showing emotion on one’s face (keeping a hard face, caradura) or not hanging one’s head in shame in a situation where remorse was due was a clear example of shameless behaviour.

There’s also the expression ‘your face should fall from shame’ (se te debería caer la cara de la vergüenza) which pretty much sums it all up.

As for the reference to animal’s snouts alluding to unabashed behaviour, it could stem from the centuries of Moorish conquest over Spain and how pigs are viewed as impure and unhealthy in Islam.

The word jeta in Spanish comes from the Arabic jaṭm and the negative connotations that came with it seeped into the Spanish language.

So the next time someone behaves selfishly and shamelessly to you in Spain, don’t forget to use one of these expressions.

They’re not exactly insults and definitely not swearwords, but maybe think twice before saying it directly to their face.
 

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SPANISH LANGUAGE

¡Me cago en! Seven things Spaniards verbally defecate on 

Barça’s Gerard Piqué stained his farewell match by getting sent off after telling the ref “I crap on your b*tch mother”. As harsh as it may sound, this kind of swearing is far from uncommon in Spain. Here’s what else Spaniards verbally defecate on.

¡Me cago en! Seven things Spaniards verbally defecate on 

Profanities are both routine and widely accepted in most social situations in Spain.  

Whether it’s mierda (shit), coño (c**t) or puta (bitch), pretty much anything goes.

Swear words tend not to carry as much clout as they do in English, so much so that calling someone a clown (payaso) or an imbecile (imbécil) can often cause more offence.

Not everyone in Spain has a potty mouth though, so don’t feel obliged to start hurling palabrotas (swear words) to sound like a local. It also depends on how the obscenity is delivered. 

READ ALSO: How to ‘swear’ politely in Spanish

One of the most colourful habits Spaniards have when it comes to swearing is the expression me cago en… (I shit/crap on…). They use it to express frustration or anger about something, or if it is followed by the possessive adjective tu (your), it’s more likely to be an insult directed at someone.

Although what you choose to verbally defecate on is completely up to you, there are some particularly evocative expressions that Spaniards use very often. 

I crap in the milk – Me cago en la leche

As weird and off-putting as this may sound, Spaniards ‘crap in milk’ a lot. It’s a bit like saying ‘shit’ or ‘damn’ to express disappointment about something.

I crap on the Virgin – Me cago en la Virgen

As you will see in this list, blasphemy and defecation go hand in hand, and as the Virgin Mary is important to Catholic Spain, she often gets brought up. Spaniards also ‘crap’ on the Almighty when saying me cago en Dios.

I crap on the sacramental bread – Me cago en la hostia 

Shouting ¡hostia! (communion wafer!), as in the host that Catholics eat during mass, is part and parcel of the daily lingo in Spain when something surprises or angers you. With that in mind, it’s logical that Spaniards also express their intent to crap on sacramental bread when they get frustrated.  

I crap on your dead relatives – Me cago en tus muertos

Here’s where things start to get personal. Verbally defecating on someone’s ancestors is a way to let them know that you’re very disappointed with them. Again, it all depends on the context, but more often than not it won’t cause too much offence, especially if they deserve it. 

I crap on your molars – Me cago en tus muelas

If you don’t want to mention the person’s deceased family members, you can avoid this by instead crapping on their molar teeth. It’s a euphemism given that muelas (molars) and muertos (dead people) start with the same syllable.

I crap in the salty sea – Me cago en la mar salada

We know what you’re thinking, as if the sea needed any more toxic waste dropping into it. This poetic expression is another euphemism, this time to avoid expressing what Gerard Piqué said about someone’s madre (mother), which could well be considered the worst insult in Spain. 

READ MORE: What’s the worst possible insult in the Spanish language?

I crap on your bitch mother – Me cago en tu puta madre

It’s not a mental image anyone of us wants but bizarrely this is a widely used insult in Spain. People also replace the madre (mother) with padre (father), although they usually drop the puta for that. Remember that this is an offensive expression in most people’s eyes and it could involve an unpleasant reaction. Saying me cago en la puta (I crap on the bitch) is different as it’s not aimed at someone’s mother. 

READ ALSO: ¡Joder! An expert guide to correctly using the F-word in Spanish

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