Mexican Slang

Soup or Soap?

Dear Readers: Thanks so much to all of you who cared enough to write in a correction for last week’s error regarding “una taxista.” From California to New York, and from San Miguel de Allende and all over Mexico, we appreciate your close attention, and apologize for any confusion.

Words that end in “ista” referring to people can be masculine or feminine: “el artista or la artista” and “el taxista or la taxista,” depending on the gender of the person. As one reader pointed out, in all her years in Mexico, she has only met one woman taxi driver. La taxista.

Soup or Soap?

It is legendary for beginning Spanish-speakers to try to add an “o” or an “a” to the end of an English word, cross their fingers, stand back, and pray that they got it right, or at the least will be understood. We might dash into the little tienda near our home and ask for sopa, as we need to wash out a few things. Of course we will be directed to the aisle displaying soup.

Or, seeing someone at a table next to us in a restaurant enjoying a rich looking soup, we might ask el mesero what kind of sopa they have that day. “We don’t have any soup today,” replies the waiter. You look back over at your neighbor who is still savoring each spoonful of an intriguing pale-green soup and your imagination leads you to believe it might be cream of asparagus, or a cream of artichoke soup. Determined, you indicate with a nod to the soup bowl at the next table. “But that isn’t soup, that is una crema: una crema de espárrago!” he replies.

Soap: jabon

Soup: sopa, crema, consommé, sopa seco, caldo sencillo or caldo

Just so you won’t feel badly about your misuse of cognates, the next Grigoism shows that Spanish-speakers learning English can also fall into a linguistic trap or two.

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