Spanish Loanwords: My Nominations

What follows is an incomplete list of Spanish words and sayings that might rate utterance by English speakers. The German weltschmerz, zeitgeist and schadenfreude get occasional play in the U.S. media because no English words so ably cover the same turf. Why not pagafantas and hombretón?

I have discussed all candidates below with Spain born-and-raiseds, particularly when more interested in a word’s interpretation in casual chat than in a first definition in the DLE. Diving right in:

pringado: (or ‘pringao’) A dupe, doormat, sucker.

pagafantas: Lovestruck pringado who stubbornly courts a mate interested only in platonic friendship. Usually male, usually young.  He pays for her Fanta.

mileurista: A university grad limping along on a near hand-to-mouth salary, especially during the Great Recession. (A usage example, at the 36 second mark.)

pijoprogre: trendy, middle-class leftist.

estar de rodríguez: State of a married man left at home to work by his vacationing spouse and children, perhaps to party and philander.

tener mano izquierda: said of one blessed with a deft touch for resolving difficult situations. “Cynthia would make a good negotiator, tiene mano izquierda.”

cacho de carne con ojos: A piece of meat with eyes. Or pedazo de carne, or trozo.  Not a compliment.

pelotazo urbanístico: A pricey real estate development project of questionable value. In Spain, see the Castellón-Costa Azahar Airport.

hombretón: a big dude.

vendehúmos: Literally, ‘sell smoke.’ A huckster promoting the worthless or undeliverable.

guiri: A pale-skinned tourist in Spain, often a German or Brit. The linked image search tells more than a dictionary. Not unaffectionate.

hay gato encerrado: There is something hidden here that doesn’t meet the eye. A Joe Biden campaigning in a swastika and a KKK beanie couldn’t lose to Trump in California, but he still chose a Golden State VP. Hay gato encerrado, thought I, when I read the news.

tener enchufe: to have a connection, an “in.”  Frank tiene enchufe with the promoter; he always gets the best tickets.

cloacas del estado: the sewer-like, behind-the-scenes intrigues of government, especially a government run by one’s political adversaries. Regularly used in the Spanish press.

pan de cada día: Literally, “bread of every day.” As an expression: what has to be dealt with daily. An artist used this term after I told him about a possible gig, then fretted aloud that he might get his hopes up for nothing. I needn’t worry, he replied; leads that didn’t work out were his “pan de cada día.”

mala leche: Mean-spiritedness, hostility, a bitter taking-of-pleasure in the suffering of others. Literally, ‘bad milk.’ “You underestimate the mala leche in Spain’s small towns,” a Madrileño told me, while arguing that the male lead in cinema classic Calle Mayor really would behave so villainously toward the movie’s victim.  (I remain unconvinced.  Watch the movie, decide for yourself.)

trapichear: The DLE’s first definition of ‘retail trade’ interests me much less than how this verb is interpreted in conversation: to rely on wits and cunning while dealing in an illicit or questionable business. An honest entrepreneur in a crime-ridden country might have to trapichear with gang leaders to protect his business from arson.

No hay dos sin tres.: “There are not two, but three.” Usually used lightheartedly, but me thinks that this saying jibes all too well with a weary adult’s practical experience:

You were supposed to get the check by Tuesday. Tuesday comes, goes. No check. You reach for the phone.

“You didn’t get it?!” asks your incredulous client/boss/borrower. Profuse apologies. Embarrassed explanations. It absolutely, positively won’t happen again!

And maybe it really won’t. People do make one-off mistakes.

But if it happens again — same “mistake,” same guy — prepare for a pattern. True, he might have been unlucky twice. Might have been. But this saying suggests otherwise.

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