Every tourist coming to a Spanish-speaking country, should probably, upon having their passport stamped, receive a list of words that they are not to attempt to use while in the country. But then, not only would it infringe on one’s freedom of speech, it would take all the fun out of our visits for our hosts. Ninety percent of the time, it is the cognates that get is into trouble. And then there are false-cognates. Words that don’t really exist in Spanish, but get us in trouble just the same. Take for example the word “capable.” Our Mexican friend might ask how we are getting along with Cesar, the gardener they recommended. We are quick to respond that “Cesar es muy capable.” What we have just said is that Cesar is “castratable,” or close to being rendered incapable. We would be better to say he is competente, (a true cognate) or use capaz, which means capable.
In the next section of Gringoisms we find take a closer look at the verb disgustar.