Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spanish Fails, parts 1 and 2

The season of 12-14 hour days has begun, which is good for my wallet but bad for my blogging ability. As a result, I've been unable to get to the internet for a while. This means a longer wait for posts from me, but because I've been neglecting you all so much, I've written two updates that I'll post today! This first one is entirely about my failure at communicating in Spanish, so if you a) don't speak Spanish, or b) are not as much of a language nerd as I am, you may not enjoy this post as much as I do. However, there's another one right belowthis one, so enjoy!

As you may have guessed, Spanish is the dominant language of the bunkhouse. My English classes are going pretty well, but we're a long way off from having anything approximating a conversation beyond 'Good morning. How are you?'

My Spanish is at a nearly-conversational level, thanks to my prior knowledge of Portuguese and an excellent Spanish professor. I've been feeling pretty good about getting on in conversations with the guys, and I'm learning a lot every day. However, that doesn't mean that I've been immune from a few memorable failures on the language front. And, as I am clearly a) shameless and b) a big language nerd, I just had to share some of them.

My first offence is a classic one, which makes it all the more embarrassing. When you learn about 'false friends' – words that sound like they should be right but are actually drastically wrong – this particular mistake just about tops the list.

The guys and I were working and talking about the weather, which has taken a turn for the better. One of the guys remarked that the farmer would be happy about the change in the weather.

“Sí,” I replied, “por que será caliente!” which I thought meant “Yes, because it will be hot.” However, having omitted a subject, I could have been referring to either a) the weather, or b) the farmer. Now, in English, it's clear that I was talking about the weather, but it's pretty ambiguous in Spanish. Moreover, 'caliente' has a fairly different connotation in Spanish. Basically, I implied that the reason for the farmer's good humour was because he was in heat.

And there you have it, folks. Always be careful with the word 'caliente,' because you might get burned.

My second offence is a little more pardonable but a lot more awesome. The verb 'mamar' is colloquially used to mean 'to speak foolishly, to bullshit.' If someone says 'no mames!' it means, roughly 'don't bullshit!' This is said roughly once every 20 seconds in Mexican Spanish, to convey disagreement, surprise, or as punctuation (though not as common as 'pinche,' which occurs every 5 seconds and is used somewhat similarly to our f-bomb).

Well, I decided to try using this new-found word, but I slipped in a little something extra, to show my Spanish prowess. In order to say 'don't bullshit me,' I said 'no me mames!' not knowing that actual meaning of 'mamar' is 'to milk' (as in, milk a cow). So, basically, I just ordered one of the guys not to milk me. I was assured that there was no danger of that occurring.


  1. Oh Adam, it's worse than you think--mamar means to suckle or to suck. You told him "don't suck me off" tee hee. but thanks for the complement.

    My favorite lame joke about "estar caliente" is that young ladies who say "esoty caliente" might end up "Muy embarasada"


  2. Oh Adam, it is worse than you think. mamar --think of mammary gland--means to suckle or to suck. You told him "don't suck me off."

    lmfao. Thanks for the complement.

  3. hahah i am gonna spanish burn u!
    1) As the previous person mentioned mamar is exactly that haha to suck. Also if a guy say "mamela esta" that means fuck u or literally bj me. haahah
    2) Lol caliente, next time used "que calor que hace" (but if u are around a hot lady that could be interpreted as a pick up line haha) or more correctly "que sol que hace!".
    3) In the blog above it should be "hongos magicos" with "h".
    but hahahaha u seem like having a great time! keep doing spanish mistakes, they made my day! Not to be mean but i havent talk to u in so long that it is ok if i am a lil bit "mala" with u =)

  4. Hey Adam,

    Thanks for posting! I can imagine what an effort it is to write and upload while putting in 12-14 hours a day of work! I laughed at the comment "taxista"; you can tell your guys that your mom agrees. The stuff about mushrooms was pretty funny too.

    Anyway, keep writing, drive carefully and tell us more about the English lessons!