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Off topic: Profanity, perception and meaning
Thread poster: yolanda Speece

yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nov 5, 2005

As a translator, one notices subtle differences with words and their significance in other countries.
What got me thinking about this was that article about the Hershey's "Dulcería de Thalía" campaign. It had to be re-marketed to certain Latin American
countries because of the use of the word "cajeta" and its meaning in those countries.

Hello Prozians! I challenge you to submit words that you know of, in Spanish and English, that may mean one thing in one country but something totally off the wall in another country.

Let the submissions begin!


John Walsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:17
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Fag Nov 5, 2005

UK - cig
US - homosexual (offensive)


Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:17
Swedish to English
+ ...
Bonking... Nov 5, 2005

Bonk - to have sex (UK), to hit the "wall" while training (US)
Fanny - female sexual parts (UK), bum (US) ...bum itself has different meanings in UK/US English too.
Buns - things you eat (UK), buttocks (US).

They're just the ones that spring immediately to mind...!!!


Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
Knock me up Nov 5, 2005

US: make me pregnant

UK: come see me.


JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 18:17
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
pinche Nov 5, 2005

Pinche in Puerto Rico--hairpin, clothespin, etc.
Pinche in Mexico--I can't get anybody to tell me but it is very vulgar! I hear it all the time in relatively recent Mexican movies.

When our daughter was little and we took her to Mexico to visit her grandparents, we had to warn her *NOT* to refer to her cute little plastic hair barrettes as "pinches" around her cousins!


French to English
estúpido Nov 5, 2005

"estúpido" is most offensive and really gets peoples' backs up.
Taboo in polite conversation.

"stupid" isn't that offensive and is found regularly.
We can insult ourselves without any problem:
"That was a stupid thing of me to do!"
"How can I be so stupid!"
and when "stupid" is used casually to people we know there is no offense:
"Don't be so stupid!" (laughingly)
However, with strangers, I suspect we would get a different response if we were to address them as "stupid". Just try "Hey, stupid, is this your car?" (parked in the wrong place).


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:17
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Spotted Dick Nov 5, 2005

In the UK, a steamed pudding with currants in it.
In the US, not a specific term as such, but it suggests a diseased male sexual organ, so if Americans see it on a dessert menu in a UK restaurant, they find it a bit off-putting.


yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Pinche has several meanings in Mexico but they aren't all very nice. Nov 5, 2005

[quote]JaneTranslates wrote:

Pinche in Mexico--I can't get anybody to tell me but it is very vulgar!

Pinche could mean:
-to pinch someone
-when someone is stingy or a penny pincher. ex. son tan pinches con .....

-low life or bastard/ as$*#@le /motherf@$#ker. ex. ese pinche desgraciado.

is this what you were looking for?


yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
One that rhymes with "Fag"-SHAG Nov 5, 2005

John Walsh wrote:

UK - cig
US - homosexual (offensive)

SHAG. DOesn't that one mean "to have sex" in the UK and it is a hairstyle and dance in the US?

I know of this band named "Alabama". They came out with a song shortly after "Austin Powers" came out called "Shagging on the Boulevard". I was working in radio broadcasting as an announcer at the time and I had to muster every amount of discipline(which isn't much) to say it with a straight face because I kept getting the mental image of people "SHAGGING ON THE BOULEVARD". I just kept thinking to myself: "I hope they are at least good looking!" It may not be a bad show! HA, ha, ha!


yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
These are greeeeaaattttt! Nov 5, 2005

Keep them coming? are there any in Spanish other than "Pinche" such as "cajeta"?


Oso (X)
+ ...
Multiple meanings Nov 6, 2005

are there any in Spanish other than "Pinche" such as "cajeta"?

Some other words in Spanish with double or multiple meanings in different countries:

cabrón(a) = billy goat (general Spanish)/ motherf***er (Méx.)
coger = to grab (general Spanish)/have sex (Arg., Méx.)
concha = shell (general Spanish)/vagina (Arg., Chile)
conejo = rabbit (general Spanish)/vagina (Esp.)
chiche = little toy (Ur., Arg.)/breast (Méx.)
chocho = old person or little candy (Méx.)/vulva (Esp.)
mariquita = ladybug (Méx.)/homosexual man (Méx.)
moto = motorbike (general Spanish)/marijuana addict (Méx.)
ojete = asshole/stupid person/eyelet (Méx.)
pendejo(a) = dumbass (Méx.)/teenager (Arg.)/pubic hair (general Spanish)
pinche = kitchen helper and hairpin (general Spanish)/motherf***er (Méx.)
pito = whistle (general Spanish)/penis (Méx.)
polla = hen (general Spanish)/penis (Esp.)
pollera = skirt (Arg.)/chicken seller (general Spanish)/person who transports illegal workers to EE.UU.(Méx.)
un palo = a wooden stick (general Spanish)/a quickie (Mex.)
rata = rat (general Spanish)/thief (Méx.)
zorra = vixen (general Spanish)/slut (Esp., Méx)

I'm sure there are many more out there.

Note: By "general Spanish" I mean words that usually have the same meaning in several different Spanish speaking countries.
If I made any mistakes with the country classifications don't hesitate to point them out.
Oso ¶:^)

[Edited at 2005-11-06 06:35]


yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
What about innocent words in one country but Nov 6, 2005

something very obscene in another?


Catherine Brix
Local time: 00:17
Swedish to English
+ ...
homely Nov 6, 2005

UK - warm, characteristic of a home - pleasant
US - ugly, plain


Sherey Gould  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:17
German to English
embarazada / bimbo Nov 6, 2005

I'm not highly versed in Spanish so someone will probably have to tweak my contribution, but I once saw a major blooper somewhere which detailed in very funny manner how someone mistook the Spanish word for being pregnant (“embarazada”) for the English word of “embarrassed.”
I can, however, speak from personal experience of *my* embarrassment when I learned the fairly innocuous word in English of “bimbo” (an airhead, a stupid person, but not too terribly demeaning) is the absolute MOST demeaning way of referring to a person of color in German. [And yet a leading brand of baked goods in Spain...!]


Natalia Elo  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:17
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Pissed off Nov 6, 2005

Doesn't it mean angry in American and drunk in British English?

You've asked for English and Spanish, but I can't help thinking about one word, which is pronounced in exactly the same way in Finnish and in Russian. The word is used as a exclamation 'gosh' in Finnish and is absolutely acceptable though rare but is indeed a very rude word for male genitals in Russian. I'm sorry, can't write it here, you'll get from the first letters of Henry, Ulrich and yes.


[Edited at 2005-11-06 11:08]

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