I giggle and gasp as I discover these misunderstandings, or when I hear phrases that are normal to Spanish speakers but sound funny to me. Life would be less interesting without them.
Choteo, verbal play to take someone down a peg, has a central role in Costa Rican culture and language. It also presents a challenge to those trying to break new ground.
In this Valentine’s Day-inspired return of the “Maeology” column, Katherine Stanley Obando explores Costa Rican terms for love.
The Tico Times is on the lookout for Costa Rican love stories; share yours and be entered in a raffle for our latest book.
Costa Ricans, looking down the street to see their bus approaching, might say, “Allí viene la nave” – “there comes my boat.” The first time I heard my husband say this, years ago, I was charmed, and I have thought of the city’s buses that way ever since.
A Costa Rican mother might run around town with her baby in her arms, while a Gringa might be more relaxed about letting her baby play in the dirt. It’s all summed up by the common phrase cada loco con su tema: every nut has his own pet subject. It’s especially true for parents, who are crazy with love.
It’s not pretty, that’s for sure, but if you’re going to speak Spanish long enough to get a flat tire, or deal with significant bureaucratic trámites, or watch sports of any kind, or navigate the workplace, you’re going to hear it.
I have lived in the same house for more than 10 years, but I have traveled quite a distance in that time. I have trouble channeling the college student who devoured the country with a ridiculous grin, unable to believe her good fortune, staring in rapture out of bus windows, listening wide-eyed to howler monkeys at night and thinking they were lions, making bioluminescent footprints on a deserted beach, getting lost, being found. Somewhere along the way I moved from “Will you LOOK at THIS?” to “Oh, yeah – that’s amazing, isn’t it?”
Más incómodo que dormir con la suegra: more uncomfortable than sleeping with your mother-in-law. Err, enough said.
Costa Rica may have only two seasons, those they don’t mess around; they come and go with panache, like divas given a dull script but determined to bring it to life through sheer force of will. Check out our twice-monthly “Maeology” column.