cuencaI’ve been always fascinated by human’s ability to conceal natural things because of morality, ethics, religion or complexes. It’s very funny when babies start learning to talk and suddenly they say: “pito, culo, caca…” (penis, butt, crap) and their blushed parents tell them off, due to their embarrassment.

All of these (rude?) words are called tabúes (taboos). Of course, speakers had to invent new ways to refer to these concepts using different words. In this way, los eufemismos (euphemism) were born. It’s more polite to say órgano reproductor masculino, trasero o excremento (man’s reproductive organ, backside or excrement).

Today we’ll talk about one of the biggest taboo in the world: Sexo.

Of course, we are not going to give a masterful lesson about sex. During these lines you will learn the origin of two of the funniest Spanish sexual slangs: manos arriba (hands up) who has never said them!

Something frightening for some people, something boring for others, a sign of sin for minority and a funny entertainment for the majority… this is “echar un polvo (literally, “to have a dust”). This synonymous with “having sex” has a very curious origin. In 18th and 19th centuries, upper classes used to have tobacco, not smoking but sniffing it. In order to do that in their parties, they would hide in private rooms. Of course, some of them took advantage of this situation to say to their lovers: ¿quieres echar un polvo? (do you want to have some tobacco dust?). And of course, sniffing was only the first part of a funny night.

Do you know something about Cuenca? It’s a Spanish city, known because of their Casas colgantes (hanging houses). Nowadays Cuenca is not the most popular city in Spain at all, but in the 15th Century, it was. Felipe I, a.k.a. Felipe “El Hermoso” (Philip “the Handsome”), King of Spain, was a mujeriego (skirt chaser). In his court, there were many servants and maidens from Cuenca. The King liked to spend time watching the stars in his astronomical observatory, which was built because he knew her wife felt disgust about things such of this. So, everytime the monarch wanted to be with a Maiden in private, he just needed to say to his wife: “I’m going with this woman to the observatory; voy a ponerla mirando a Cuenca (I’m going to put her looking toward Cuenca). Eventually, this sentence became popular because of the servants’ indiscretion, who heard everything that happened inside. Currently, poner a una mujer mirando para Cuenca, means having sex with a woman in the doggy style.

These are only two examples which represents our ancestors’ creativity finding euphemisms. Luckily, if you learn Spanish via Skype with us, you’ll be able to choose between a taboo or an euphemism, but take care, because sometimes, euphemisms became taboos as time passes. So, we invite you, no to mirar a Cuenca nor echar un polvo, but to reserve a free trial lesson on