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Culture —– How Feo is Feo?

by Brandi

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January 25th, 2010

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Vocabulario de la semana – Vocabulary of the Week

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

In the English language frecuentemente decimos particular words que pueden ser very intense when spoken in Spanish. These are words that really should be steered clear of because pueden ser offensive. Un ejemplo es the word “stupid” that we discussed in a previous newsletter el año pasado. In English, some people regularly say, “that was stupid” y otras frases similares. The word “stupid” in Spanish is “estúpido” [es-too-pea-though]; it is exceptionally fuerte and should be avoided in Spanish speech.

Ahora on the reverse end of the scale, vamos a ver a word that is relatively strong in English, but more frequently used in the Spanish language – en ceirtas circunstancias. It is the word “feo.” In English, “feo” is a pretty negative word generalmente usada to talk about apariencia. Because it is so fuerte, you would of course never call everyone feo a menos que you were purposely trying to ofenderles. In Spanish, the word “feo” has the same significado as its English counterpart and is also considered to be muy negativo. However, también se usa in a few different contexts. Aquí hay dos ejemplos (abajo):

Here is just one example to give you an idea of this concept. I have un amigo latino that came to live in the United States 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 mentioned how certain American dishes were just plain “feos” to him. After he said that, lo miraban with a strange look because food usually is not 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 began to laugh 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.”

Aquí hay otro fascinating Spanish use of the word “feo.” Hace unos meses, I was at Disneyland with my family de vacaciones. While we were riding the parking trams, 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 do not speak Spanish because I definitely look very much like a “gringo.” Anyway, the lady was talking and reminded me de una frase that is commonly used in the Spanish language. 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.”

What we can learn: When you are learning un idioma diferente, it is very important to learn some of the differences of how words and expressions might be used. De otro modo you could inadvertently end up offending an individual or causing mucha confusión. Differences in language and culture can be very educational and are always fun to learn about.
For next week: “Research Showing the Effects of Learning a Language on the Brain!”

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