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Almost, But Not Quite

'Fickle Friends' Can Be Confusing


french omelet

Tortilla francesa. (French omelet.)

Photo by Peter Lindberg; licensed via Creative Commons.
  • Real, realismo: "Real" and "realism" are the obvious meanings, but these words also can mean "royal" and "regalism." Similarly, a realista can be either a realist or a royalist. Fortunately, realidad is "reality"; to say "royalty," use realeza.
  • Relativo: As an adjective, relativo and "relative" are often synonymous. But there is no Spanish noun relativo corresponding to the English "relative" when it refers to a family member. In that case, use pariente.
  • Rentar: In some areas of Latin America, rentar can indeed mean "to rent." But it also has a more common meaning, "to yield a profit." Similarly, the most common meaning of rentable is "profitable."
  • Rodeo: In the right context, it can mean "rodeo," although there are differences between the typical rodeos of the United States and of Mexico. But it can also mean an encirclement, a stockyard, or an indirect path. Figuratively, it also can mean an evasive reply, a "beating around the bush."
  • Rumor: When used in a figurative sense, it indeed does mean "rumor." But it also often means a low, soft sound of voices, commonly translated as "murmurring," or any soft, vague sound, such as the gurgling of a creek.
  • Soportar: Although it can be translated as "to support" in some usages, it often is better translated as "to tolerate" or "to endure." Some of the verbs that are better used to mean "to support" include sostener or aguantar in the sense of supporting weight, and apoyar or ayudar in the sense of supporting a friend.
  • Suburbio: Both "suburbs" and suburbios can refer to areas outside a city proper, but in Spanish the word usually has a negative connotation, referring to slums. A more neutral word to refer to suburbs is las afueras.
  • Típico: This word usually does mean "typical," but it doesn't have the negative connotation that the English word often has. Also, típico often means something along the lines of "traditional" or "having the characteristics of the local area." Thus if you see a restaurant offering comidas típicas, expect food that is characteristic for the region, not merely "typical" food.
  • Tortilla: In Spanish, the word can refer not only to a tortilla but also to an omelet.
  • Último: Although something that is the best can be referred to as lo último, the word more commonly means "last" or "most recent."
  • Vicioso: Although this word is sometimes translated as "vicious," it more often means "depraved" or simply "faulty."
  • Violar, violador: These words and words related to them have a sexual connotation more often than they do in English. While in English a violator may simply be someone who drives too fast, in Spanish a violador is a rapist.

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