Vocabulary: “Controversial” Spanish words
As you know, the body that looks after our language is the three-hundred-year-old Royal Academy of Language (RAE). It decides the terms that Spanish speakers can use; and as you can imagine, there are some decisions that have been unpopular. Here are some of those “controversial” decisions.
- Almóndiga: according to the RAE, this is a synonym for “albóndiga” – a meatball. The problem is that “almóndiga” has always been considered wrong or uncultured in its use.
- Bluyin: does this word sound familiar to you? It’s a Hispanicization of “blue jeans”. The problem? In Spain, this type of trousers has always been called “vaqueros”, or even just its English name.
- Crocodilo: this synonym for “cocodrilo” is funny. It should be the correct word since it comes from the Latin “crocodilus”; in the first edition of the RAE Dictionary it was actually the correct word, until “cocodrilo” triumphed.
- Güisqui: this is how “whisky” is pronounced in Spanish. It’s another word that annoys some for its apparently ignorant spelling. However, nothing has ever been said about other Hispanicized names of foreign liquor, like “coñac” (cognac), “ginebra” (gin) or “champán” (champagne).
- Murciégalo: although this way of saying “murciélago” has been taken as incorrect, it’s been correct since 1734. It means bat.
- Toballa: although this way of saying “toalla” (towel) seems bad, it was used in old Castilian. The 1739 edition of the RAE Dictionary called its use “vulgar” but not incorrect.
Correct but badly interpreted words? Archaisms that are so old they sound bad? We don’t know, but one thing we will admit: as correct as they are, it’s best not to use them. You’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment.