Tricky Little Trampas


JK, Horribly Embarassed

Spanish is a delightful language.  Here in Panama it really helps to speak it.   Did you know there are about 3,000 words quite similar to their English counterparts?  Nacional, odioso, normal, nervioso.  Auto, carro, bus.  These little sweeties are called “cognates,” meaning words with a common etymological origin.  They share Latin or other common roots with their English counterparts.   And their purpose in life is to give you false confidence in your command of Spanish, so that you will fall into the clutches of their opposites, the dread “false cognates.”

False cognates are words that look like you ought to know them but mean something entirely different.   If you have just put your fút (not a word without bol after it) in it by requesting your food without preservativos (condoms), simply blush becomingly and announce that you are embarazada (pregnant).  Demonios (demons)  –  as the subtitles say when translating bad words on TV .  What a trampa (trap) you are.  Hmm.  I suppose a young man’s mother would think that a fair translation.  She could lie down on the carpeta (folder) and have a tantrum.  Anyway, if you are now en absoluto (not at all) in  so much agonia (your final moments of life) that you are ready to find a ropa (clothing) and hang yourself in the basamento (base of a column),  you are being just plain bizarro (brave).   You must be intoxicado (suffering from food poisoning).

BTW, you can find lists of these wonderful words on various language websites by querying “cognates” and “false cognates.”