¿Cómo Se Dice…?

Every day week, I’ll tweet a Spanish word or phrase with its English equivalent or definition. If you miss it, most of those words or phrases will be posted here for reference. It’s a free daily Spanish lesson from me to you. 🙂 Happy learning!

For my translation services go here –> Spanish translator/proofreader/editor?

Spanish Word of the Day

Como Pedro por su casa – (Usually it is used to mean that someone acts as if they own or know a place they’ve never been to very well and make themselves at home.)

Tener algo entre ceja y ceja – (To be dead set on something or someone / Keeping an eye on something or someone)

Dar en el clavo [acertar] – (To guess right; Hit the nail on the head)

¡A vivir, que son dos días! – (Live it up, life is short)

Autodidacta – (Self-taught)

Cantar las cuarenta – (Scold someone; “Tell them a thing or two”)

A flor de piel – (Skin-deep/On edge/Intense obvious emotions)

A la fuerza ahorcan – (Doing something only because no other choice)

El pan de cada día – (Daily bread; Regular food needed for sustenance)

Amigo por correspondencia – (Pen pal)

Arrimar el hombro – (Help out; “Lend a hand”)

Andar con rodeos – (Purposely avoid or wast time before talking or delivering a message; Beat around the bush)

A diestro y siniestro – (All over the place; “Left and right”)

Ahorro de luz diurna / Horario de verano – (Daylight-saving)

Más buscados [criminal] – (Most wanted)

Aguar la fiesta – (Spoil the fun; Rain on someone’s parade)

Dar luz verde [autorizar] – ([fig.; Green light/Go ahead)

Ir al grano – (Get to the point; “Cut to the chase”)

Un cuento chino – (A hard to believe tale; Cock-and-bull story)

Desgracia compartida, menos sentida – (Sharing your sorrows with someone can make you feel better)

De lo perdido saca lo que puedas. – (Make the best of a bad situation)

No hay mal que por bien no venga – (Every cloud has a silver lining)

Hay pájaros en el alambre – (Others may be listening/The walls have ears)

A otro perro con ese hueso – (“Yeah, right”/Go try to fool someone else)

Al mal paso darle prisa – (Get it over and done with)

La vida sedentaria – (Couch potato lifestyle)

A donde te quieren mucho no vayas a menudo. – (A constant guest is never welcomed)

Consejo no pedido, consejo mal oído. – (Never give unsolicited advice)

La vida sigue su curso – (Life goes on)

Pionero de la moda – (Trend setter)

Alta mar – (Far from the coast; the high seas, open sea)

Las apariencias engañan – (Looks can be deceiving/Beauty is but skin-deep)

Turbar – (Disturb)

Veracidad – (Truthfulness)

Imbécil – (Moron/Idiot)

Ingenua(o) – (Person with lack of wisdom; Naive)

Oftalmología – (Branch of medicine dealing with the eye; Ophthalmology)

Cuando menos piensa el galgo, salta la liebre – (Things happen when we least expect them)

Prever – (Foresee / Anticipate)

Idolatría – (Worship of a god / Idolatry)

Petardo – (Firecracker)

Asunto urgente – (Pressing matter)

No hables mal del puente hasta haber cruzado el río – (Know before you judge)

Pintoresco – (Picturesque/Colorful/Eccentric)

Anticonceptivos – (Birth control; Contraceptives)

Carga – (Load/Charge/Figuratively: Burden)

Carencia – (Lack/Shortage)

Ojo por ojo, diente por diente – (EqFigurativelyual punishment; An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth)

Caudal – (Volume/Flow [river])

No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver – (Blinded/To be in denial)

Sabiduría – (Wisdom/Knowledge

Quisquilloso – (Finicky/Picky [eater])

Crepúsculo – (Twilight hours/Dusk)

Convivir – (Live together; Coexist)

Tinieblas – (Darkness/Dark/Obscurity)

Quien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija – (Surround yourself with good/important people)

Anochecer – (Nightfall / Dusk)

Reconciliarse – (Make up / Reconcile)

Día del padre – (Father’s Day)

Quien mucho abarca, poco aprieta – (To try to do more than you’re able to)

Mundial de Fútbol / El mundial / Copa del mundo – (World Cup)

Timón – (Helm/Rudder/Steering wheel)

Prevaricar – (Consciously misinform the public /Fail to act)

Tomar las cosas a pecho – (Take things seriously; Take things to heart)

Dañino – (Harmful/Dangerous)

Aguacero – (Downpour / Rain shower)

Tórrido – (Scorching hot / Steamy)

Agridulce – (Bittersweet)

Maléfico – (Evil; Maleficent)

De poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco. – (We have all been fools once in our lives)

Harto – (Jaded/Tired of something)

Desistir – (Give up / Cease)

Lanzar/Tirar – (Toss / Throw away)

Salado – (Literally: Salty; Figurative.: Jinxed / Unlucky)

A la estela de / A raíz de… – (In wake of…)

Hacer sentir culpable – (Attempt to make someone feel guilty; Guilt trip)

Día de los caídos – (Memorial Day)

Ser un dolor de cabeza / Ser un fastidio – (To be a pain in the ass)

Ser un manojo de nervios – (Be a nervous wreck)

Travieso – (Naughty / Mischievous)

Fósforo / Cerilla – (Match [fire] )

El tiempo lo cura todo – (Time heals all wounds)

Con la vara que midas, serás medido – (You’ll be judged in the same way you judge others)

Intrépido – (Bold/Fearless)

Persevera y triunfarás – (Persevere; If at first you don’t succeed, try again)

Esquivar – (Dodge/Avoid)

Buen(a) mozo(a) – (Good-looking)

¡No me digas! – (Expresses disbelief; “No way!”)

Inalcanzable – (Unattainable)

Como aguja en un pajar – (Like a needle in a haystack)

Lo que por agua viene, por agua se va – (Easy come, easy go)

Secuestrar – (Abduct/Kidnap)

¡Ojo! – (Literally: Eye; figuratively: “Look out!”)

Otra vez la burra al trigo – (Repeatedly say something; Here we go again)

Menso – (Dumb person / Idiot)

Travesti – (Transvestite)

Se pilla al mentirosos antes que al cojo – (The truth always comes out)

Denigración / Deshumanización – (Objectification [of women/human being])

¡Menudo rollo! – (What a pain)

Mirar el lado positive – (To look at the bright side)

Alma en pena – (Lost soul)

Novato – (Novice/ Rookie)

Huevo de Pascua – (Easter egg)

De noche todos los gatos son pardos. – (All looks the same in the dark / Appearance doesn’t matter in the dark)

Espina – (Thorn)

Ten por seguro… – (Rest assured…)

Sangriento – (Bloody)

Moribunda(o) – (Dying person/Crumbling)

Del árbol caído, todos hacen leña – (Knocking somebody when they’re already down)

No dejar camino por vereda – (Don’t leave a real thing for uncertainty)

Vereda – (Sidewalk)

Incertidumbre – (Uncertainty / Doubt)

Comején – (Termite)

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando. – (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)

Obsequio – (Gift/Present)

Hay mucho más donde elegir – (There are plenty more fish in the sea)

Rebotar – (Bounce)

Contraseña – (Password)

Amor no correspondido, tiempo perdido. – (To love in vain is a pain/waste of time)

Atroz – (Heinous / Awful)

Pudiente – (Well-off)

Ya que estamos en el baile, bailemos. – (Might as well go all the way)

Rabiosa(o) – (Rabid/Wild/Frenzied)

Si te he visto, ya no me acuerdo – (Long absent, soon forgotten)

Polémica – (Controversy/Argumentative)

Entremetido – (Meddlesome/Snooper)

Obra de común, obra de ningún. – (Too many cooks spoil the broth”)

Ruiseñor – (Songbird/Nightingale)

Trabajador independiente / autónomo – (Self-employed / Freelancer)

Tibio – (Lukewarm)

A donde el corazón se inclina, el pie camina. – (Follow your heart/Home is where the heart is)

Saint Patrick’s Day – (Día de San Patricio)


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That Moment When Your Identity Can’t Be Identified

In an online magazine interview, the very famous and talented Asian actress Lucy Liu said that she struggles to find work as the main character in movies because of her race. She is found either “too American” for Asian films or “too Asian” for American films and she feels like she gets “pushed out of both categories” — even though she was born and raised in the US.

Friends, I’m no Hollywood star, but I feel her pain. That’s an all-too-familiar dilemma for me. An inner dilemma, as well. I feel equally pushed out of my two cultures. I believe the term for this revolution is Bicultural Identity. I’ve lived in the US longer than I did in my native Dominican Republic. When my family made the move, I wasn’t young enough to absorb my new culture as a whole, yet not old enough to not adopt it either.

Eventually, inevitably and subconsciously, I picked up the new culture completely. As proud as I am of my Caribbean roots, I identify myself with the American culture a bit more. For this, I am judged by others. People don’t get it. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t some Dominican traditions that I still follow and prefer, but change is bound to happen when you emerge yourself so much in a culture, or anything. It is natural.

I love my native language Spanish, for instance. I love Romance languages in general. So passionate… Being bilingual (or multilingual) is absolutely wonderful. Having been raised in two different cultures, however, can be a bit confusing. One time, while vacationing with my family in the D.R., I was speaking “Spanglish” (switching between English and Spanish) with my brother when a friend of the family asked what the hell we were saying. “Have you guys forgotten how to speak Spanish now?” she asked.

“It’s just easier,” I said. Uh, no, it wasn’t because it was easier. It just happened.

I honestly didn’t even realize it until she mentioned it, so how could I even put into words that what she had just witnessed came out naturally. It must have been the first time my “code-switching” was brought to my own attention. While my English teachers back in the US didn’t want any español in the classroom, people in the D.R. didn’t want me speaking English in their presence. That’s hella puzzling for a teenager.

In the D.R., they said I had a new accent and I was “a whole new person.” Friends mocked me and looked at me as though I was pretending to be something I was not, when in fact I had no control over the changes I was going through. I sort of tried hard to prove that I was still the same girl, only to end up proving to myself that a lot had indeed changed and there was nothing I could do about that. My views, my ways…I was changing — not only because of the culture switch, but also because I was quite young and still growing. To them, I wasn’t a “true Dominican” anymore.

But then, in the US, I’m not perceived as an American either. One word that doesn’t fail to come up whenever I meet new people is “originally.” They want to know where I’m from as soon as we start to speak — and South Jersey and Philadelphia are unacceptable. This scenario happens often and it always makes me question so much about myself, about how I feel living in two cultures.

People who don’t know me can’t pinpoint my ethnicity by just listening to my accent — a combination of a bunch of dialects at this point. My overall physical appearance is not necessarily the biggest identifier either. I’ve been stared at with the Colombian-Brazilian-Cuban-Puerto Rican-African-and-white magnifying glass. “Dominican”, I say, to avoid further confusion.

Looks (and accents) shouldn’t be the deciding factor of a person’s career. And I won’t try to blend in just to please people; I want an identity, whatever that may be, that I feel comfortable with. So give us a break, world. I share with both of my cultures just as much and truly enjoy being bicultural — it’s people’s ignorance that makes it hard.


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