In my last year of college, I remember taking some Spanish class that focused on Hispanic literature in which the professor was from Spain.
We ended up having to be split into groups and answer some assignment on some crime fiction book that we had been reading.
Anyway, our group becomes stuck on a particular question in which there was some word that we didn’t know what it meant.
As someone pulls out Google translate on their phone, I casually say out loud “prostitute, no?”
The word – whatever it was – sounded like it would translate to prostitute.
Not sure why I thought that but there was something in the back of my mind that connected the dots.
Perhaps I heard that word used like that before?
By that point, the Spanish professor, who happened to be walking by, took a look at me for a second.
There was a small pause of a few seconds in which she responded about how “actually, it does mean prostitute in Argentina but not elsewhere.”
If I remember right, the book we were reading was based in Spain.
So, whatever the word was, I guess it means prostitute in Argentina but something else in Spain?
It’s been almost 5 years since this moment so I don’t remember what the word was.
Though this scenario is very much like another sexualized word that people get confused on.
Anyone want to fuck a taxi today?
In some parts of the Spanish speaking world, coger can mean “to fuck” while, in other parts, it can used to mean “to take a taxi.”
And those are all around broad examples of how words can change meaning in Latin America.
Let’s dive into some other examples out of curiosity.
Antro or Disco?
Before I began living in Mexico, I did spend time in Latin America for a few years.
Argentina was one of those countries I spent time in (though I never chased prostitutes but must’ve picked up the word somehow).
But, while I was traveling around Latin America, another word I did pick up was discoteca.
That changed by the time I arrived to Mexico and have been here since.
I haven’t met a single Mexican who uses the word “discoteca” for club.
It’s always “antro.”
Though I’m not sure why Mexicans prefer the word antro, my last girlfriend did tell me once that it’s because the young folks decided to use the word to rebel and get under the skin of their parents.
Supposedly the word always had a bad reputation meaning like a nightlife spot that is seedy or it has a bad crowd hanging around.
So younger Mexicans, supposedly, decided to stop saying discoteca and instead opted for antro to be rebels or some shit.
Not sure how true that is because I’ve only been told that story once.
And, personally, I prefer the word “discoteca” over antro.
“Antro” sounds like a place for ants
ANT – row?
Haha haha haha – get it?
Joker TV scene
“I’m going to be a comedian!”
Either way, I think discoteca sounds better.
But let’s move on.
How Do You Say Banana?
This actually isn’t a big issue for me because I rarely eat bananas ever.
Sometimes, when I try to eat healthy, I’ll get some at a market but I always prefer apples because bananas rot away so god damn quick.
Anyway, in my years living in Latin America, the difference in what to call a “banana” has been much more noticeable to me.
Primarily because, while most Latinos in Latin America seem to use discoteca and antro is seemingly more of a Mexican thing from what I’ve noticed, you do seem to have more disagreement among more Latinos on what to call a banana.
In some places, I’ve heard people actually just call it “banana” with a stress on one of the a’s.
While other people have called it “plátano.”
And I remember bananas also being called “cambur” once but rarely.
I don’t think cambur is as common from what I’ve seen.
It’s almost always been “banana” or “plátano.”
The only other word that I remember being used for “banana” was one time in a Colombian city called Barranquilla.
When I was living there, I had a Colombian girlfriend named Marcela one time.
We decided to go to a local market once to get some food with some of the money that her mom gave her to buy some shit.
Mostly chicken, some fruits and vegetables.
Though I sometimes shit on Colombian food, her mom knew how to cook a decent chicken and rice.
Though, instead of getting rice this time, she wanted us to get some bananas.
As it’s been some years since this happened, I had to think about what the word was that they used in the market for what looked like a banana.
I think it was “guineo.”
Of course, one other thing needs to be said.
Some of the words mentioned here can have different meanings in other countries.
Take “plátano” for example.
Which, for some people, might mean “banana” but it could just be a platano.
And the meaning of something like “cambur” can mean something different depending on the country from what I understand.
Plus, being honest, even I don’t truly understand the differences in how every Latino in Latin America sees these words as they sometimes disagree with each other on what to call certain words like “banana” as you can see here.
Source for that map was found here.
One Last Point
Which, as a last point, it should be observed how this map, including other sources I have seen, claim that "banano" is used instead of "guineo" in Colombia.
Obviously, the country is big and you'll always have regional differences in certain Latin countries regarding what words are used.
In the same way that, if I had to guess, perhaps older folks in Mexico are more likely to use the word "discoteca" than "antro."
It's not fair to say that every Colombian or every Mexican uses a certain word. Regional & generational differences play a role also.
Anything to Add?
These were just a few examples that came to mind.
I decided to expand on this topic a little more because I’ve been thinking of going out next weekend with some folks.
And someone used the word “antro” in the discussion in regards to where should we go.
Simply reminded me of this topic and so here we are.
But if you have any other interesting examples, drop them below in the comment section.
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Thanks for reading.