Maldito (accursed one) is the official subtitle translation for a number of naughty English words in movies. It’s little friends seem pretty wimpy, too. In fact, even when movie cursing has serious cojones (male equipment), the subtitles might read “Demonios! Diablos! Maldito!” which translates literally to a dainty, “Demons! Devils! Accursed person!”
I’ve lived in Central America for two and a half years, two of those in Panama. And I’ve never once heard anyone who was upset or angry say “Maldito!” Nor has anyone said “Demonios!” or “Diablos!” So I was curious as to the actual bad-words-in-use, so to speak.
Bad Word: M&nt!r@!
A word I do hear frequently is mentira (you lie). It’s possible this is not really a “bad” word. I have a Panamanian friend who is definitely someone my mother would identify as “a lady.” This friend will say something she considers funny but is the opposite of true. Then she cries “Mentira!” So I gather in that context it means “joke” not “lie.” OK. I get that. Even though in the Old West calling someone a liar also called for six-guns at noon, I have americano friends who often conclude joking remarks by saying, “I’m lying.” On the other hand, sometimes my amiga Panameña growls it at offensive teenagers.
Bad Word: C@r@j%!
My amiga also used to say “Carajo!” a lot, especially when addressing her dogs, who are not always immediately obedient. When I finally asked her what it meant, she blushed, told me carajo means “garlic face,” explained what a groseria (extremely rude/crude term) it was, and insisted she would never say it again. Who would think that shouting , “Hey! Garlic face!” at your dog could put the speaker into a so-rude-we-don’t-associate-with-her category? Now that I’m familiar with the meaning of the word, I was surprised when I saw it used as a movie subtitle for the f-bomb. I asked another friend, a member of the younger generation, and he assured me it was indeed a bad word, and very much the equivalent of the f-bomb. Well, there’s a cultural shock. Or maybe not. But…garlic face? How do we get from A to B on that one?
Bad Word: M!&rd@!
One word you’d think would make it into the subtitles is la mierda, because the meaning is such a straight shot from one language to the other (if the other is French). To be delicate, we shall translate this word by referencing another Spanish word which needs no translation if you have ever been a child: pupu. And pupu is what we “ladies” are to call it here, when and if we must speak about it. Unless, of course (titter, hee-hee), we are speaking of that area in the nearby pueblo of Cocal now known as Miraflores. (Click to read the story of Why La Mierda is No More.
Bad Word: H#&v%s!
As a point of interest, although the phrase is seldom found in movie scripts, I was warned never to enter a grocery and inquire of the (male) grocer, “Tiene huevos? (Do you have eggs?)” Apparently this is a question best asked by one heavily testosteroned male of another as a prelude to snorting and posturing, and is a phrase to be completely eschewed by “ladies.”
Bad Word: R@s!
And then, of course, there is the word made famous by a line in a fairly recent (2011) and very popular Carnaval song. The singer is asked where he is going. He replies “Las Tablas, tu ras!” This would translate to “Las Tablas, you a$$h%le.” Again, we have here a groseria we “ladies” do not use.
What can we conclude from all of this? Well, one thing I think is obvious is that the head of the movie Departamento de Subtitulos must be a “L@dy.”