Vocabulario de la semana – Vocabulary of the Week

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feo – ugly

frecuentemente decimos – we frequently say

que pueden ser – that can be

pueden ser – they can be

un ejemplo es – one example is

el año pasado – last year

y otras frases similares – and other similar phrases

fuerte – strong

ahora – now

vamos a ver – let’s look at (see)

en ceirtas circunstancias – in certain circumstances

generalmente usada/o – generally used

apariencia – appearance

a menos que – unless

ofenderles – to offend them

significado – meaning

muy negativo – very negative

también se usa – it is also used

aquí hay dos ejemplos – here are two examples

abajo – below

un amigo latino – a Latin friend

él estaba conversando con – he was conversing with

ellos estaban hablando – they were talking

acerca de – about

feos – ugly (plural)

lo miraban – they looked at him

bonito – pretty

comida fea – ugly food

dicen – they say

el cual significa – which means

aquí hay otro – here is another

hace unos meses – a few months ago

de vacaciones – on vacation

estaba detrás de mí – was behind me

y entonces – and then

la gente piensa – people think

de una frase – of a phrase

ella estaba hablando – she was talking

un idioma diferente – a different language

de otro modo – otherwise

mucha confusión – a lot of confusion

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In English frecuentemente decimos certain words que pueden ser very strong in Spanish. These are words that should be avoided because pueden ser offensive.

Un ejemplo es the word “stupid” that we talked about in a newsletter el año pasado. In English, some people commonly say, “that was stupid” y otras frases similares. The word “stupid” in Spanish is “estúpido” [es-too-pea-though]; it is incredibly fuerte and should be avoided in Spanish speech.

Ahora on the opposite end of the scale, vamos a ver a word that is pretty strong in English but more commonly used in Spanish – en ceirtas circunstancias. It is the word “feo.” In English, “feo” is a pretty negative word generalmente usada to talk about apariencia. Because it’s so fuerte, you would never call someone feo a menos que you were purposely trying to ofenderles.

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In Spanish, the word “feo” has the same significado as its English counterpart and is also considered muy negativo. However, también se usa in a few different contexts. Aquí hay dos ejemplos (abajo):

I have un amigo latino that came to live in the U.S. from South America. El estaba conversando con his soon-to-be in-laws (from the U.S.), and ellos estaban hablando acerca de different foods. He talked about how certain American dishes were just plain “feos” to him. After he said that, lo miraban with a strange look because food usually isn’t referred to as “feo” in English.

As Americans, we don’t refer to food as “bonito” or “feo.” After a few minutes of confusion, the family laughed when they finally realized that “comida fea” to him meant that it tasted bad. In Spanish, dicen, “la comida está fea” el cual significa “The food is ugly,” or “The food tastes bad.”

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Aquí hay otro interesting Spanish use of the word “feo.” Hace unos meses, I was in Disneyland with my family de vacaciones. We were riding the parking trams and a Spanish speaking couple estaba detrás de mí. I love listening to Spanish speaking people talk, y entonce s surprising them by commenting to them in Spanish.

Usually la gente piensa I don’t speak Spanish because I definitely look like a “gringo.” Anyway, the lady was talking and reminded me de una frase that is commonly used in Spanish. Ella estaba hablando acerca de a certain thing her friend had done socially and said, “Eso se ve feo.” The literal meaning is “That looks ugly.” Its equivalent in every-day English would be, “That doesn’t look good,” or “That just isn’t right.”

Moral of the Story: When learning un idioma diferente, it’s important to learn some of the differences of how words are used. De otro modo you can end up offending someone or causing mucha confusión. Differences in language and culture can be very educational and fun to learn about.

¡Hasta luego! (“Until later”)

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Written by David S. Clark President/Director, U.S. Institute of Languages. Copyright © 1999-2010 US Institute of Languages All rights reserved.

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