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4 Spanish insults and their curious origins

4 insults and originsOne of the most fascinating contents that a student of a foreign language can learn is insults. They might have no idea of introducing themselves, describing daily actions or discussing about the most basic topics. However, if they know some of the most popular insults in that language, they will feel more natural speaking.

We are not mojigatos (prudish) at Spanishviaskype.com, so, we usually teach slangs, colloquial expressions and, even insults, of course, in our conversational lessons.

Today, we’ll focus on the origin and the etymology of some of these popular Spanish insults.

Some people think that insulting is a kind of art. You can discredit somebody in a fine way as Picasso could paint some of his works, or you can insult people rudely likewise I could paint an awful picture. In the same way, there are insults that comes from the ancient Latin, and on the other hand, there are others, whose origins come from sex language.

Imbécil

This is quite used to describe a person as stupid or dumb. ‘Imbecilic’ in English, ‘imbécile’ in French, ‘imbecille’ in Italian… as you might think, they share a common root, of course a Latin one. Nevertheless, etymology is not an exact science. There are some theories about the origin of imbécil.

Firstly, it might come from the expression ‘imbecillis’ (‘im’, no or without and ‘becillis’, diminutive from ‘baculum’, cane or walking stick). People who needed a cane to walk meant they might be old, and in consequence, wise. So, people who didn’t need a cane were not so wise. Eventually, the term was used to describe stupid individuals.

The second theory claims that the origin comes from ‘im’ and ‘bellum’ (war). That is ‘without or no war’. Romans used to call ‘imbellum’ to people who were disable for war, consequently, useless.

Gilipollas

This is used in Spain mainly. The origin is very curious. It is a compound word, from the Caló language, the Spanish variation of Romani, the language of gipsies. ‘Gil’, from ‘jill’, that means dumb or stupid, and the Spanish word ‘polla’, the vulgar form for ‘pene’ (penis). This insult means something like ‘tonto de la polla’, that is, a person who only thinks using the penis, instead of the brain.

Tonto

It’s maybe the most used without being so cruel or rude than others. This word comes again from Latin. ‘Attonare’ was a verb that expressed the action that a strong noise produces to a person who is next to it. Its past participle ‘attonitus’ is also used in Spanish as atónito (astonished, stunned). The popular evolution from the literary word was tonto, a person who is stunned by everything he or she sees; that is, dumb or fool in English.

Capullo

This term refers to a flower’s bud. A bud can look like very simple and ugly until it’s open and reveals its beauty. In the same way, un capullo is a person who seems very stupid although you can get on well with him or her. The origin of the word comes from Latin ‘cappellus’ (cap or bonnet). Metaphorically, it was used to name a bud but also the penis’ glands and we’ve already seen before the relationship between some insults and males’ sexual organs.

We think four of these terms are enough for one day. Learning a language is also knowing the suburbs of its. If you are planning to come to Spain on holidays, don’t hesitate and reserve a free trial lesson via Skype here. If you like it, you might try our Spanish Survival Course, where you will learn the basic expressions to survive; but, please, don’t start a conversation using capullo or gilipollas; if you do it, our course maybe will not be enough to survive.

By | 2018-07-10T14:29:02+00:00 julio 11th, 2018|Survival, Under your responsability, Words made in Spain|Sin comentarios

About the Author:

I was born in Badajoz (Extremadura) and I currently live in Bilbao (Basque Country). I studied a Bachelor degree in Spanish Language and Literature and an International House degree as a qualified teacher of Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language. I think languages are the key that opens the doors to new cultures and I love teaching mine.

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