You didn’t think we’d let Hispanic Heritage Month pass by without a study of the Spanish language, did you?
Many people are unaware that not all Spanish words are the same across all Spanish-speaking countries. For example, if you are hoping to get a banana in Puerto Rico, you shouldn’t ask for a plátano. There are all sorts of Spanish word variations just like this one depending on where you are in the world. We wanted to help you learn more about this in a fun way with our new Spanish word variations app. We hope you’ll check it out, and keep reading to learn the story behind some of the wildest variations.
If you scroll through on our app, you’ll notice that Argentina occasionally doesn’t match up with the other Spanish countries. How come? Argentina was originally colonized by Spain, but when it achieved independence in the 19th century, many European immigrants flooded the country. Italy was one of the European countries undergoing political and economic turmoil at the time, which sent many of their people to new homes around the world. Now the Italian population in Argentina is the second largest Italian population outside of Italy. For this reason, many Italian words – and at the very least, an Italian style of pronunciation and delivery – have made it into Argentinian culture.
Something else that might explain the variation in Argentinian words is a dialect called Rioplatense Spanish, which literally means River Plate Spanish, and refers to Spanish spoken in the areas in an around the Río de la Plata basin. From Rioplatense is where you get the word poroto for bean.
“Save a Can?”
Trash can interestingly has several variations across the Spanish-speaking countries. In Puerto Rico the translation is zafacón, and legend has it that the word was literally translated from the English phrase “save a can.” You can find a few sources that refute this story, but you certainly can’t ignore the similarity between the two.
“Before Eyes” Come Eyeglasses
Eyeglasses is another English word that sees a great amount of variation among the countries we included on our app. Lentes is the way to say eyeglasses in Mexico and Venezuela – it comes from the Latin word for lens. In Argentina, they say anteojos, literally “before eyes.” Makes sense! But where did gafas and espejuelos come from? We were able to find a list of Spanish words that have a French origin and gafas was included, but if you have other ideas on where this word might have originated, please share with us in the comments!
How about espejuelos? That word comes from espejo, which means mirror in Spanish. How did this term come to be used, as opposed to lentes or some of the other variations? It’s hard to say. Although you can see how someone might have seen a resemblance between eyeglasses and two tiny mirrors, yes?
We hope you’ll take a look at the other words we included on our Spanish word variations app along with their translations in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina. While you’re there, keep in mind that we didn’t include all the common words that vary across these countries – like work, beer, and click to name a few – and it’s hard to come up with just one word for every country (especially when you include slang in the mix!).
If you’ve got ideas for words we should add, or if you know the root of any of the variations we included on our list, we’re all ears. Leave a comment or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter with your suggestions!