Did you know there are some Spanish words that you might be hearing or using sometimes, but are actually offensive to Mexicans? In this video, you’re going to discover 8 Spanish words you should NEVER use when talking to a Mexican!
I’m teacher Mariana, from Spring Spanish, a proud Mexican, and here’s the first offensive word….
Sex and body parts
1) Paja, pajilla, pajita
In OTHER Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll often hear people saying ¿Me das una paja/pajilla/pajita? (Can you give me a straw)… but in Mexico, paja, pajilla and pajita refer to the verb “to masturbate”.
So, si estás en un restaurante en México (if you are at a restaurant in Mexico), you want to ask for un popote (a straw), never una paja o pajilla. Like this:
- Disculpe, ¿me puede traer un popote, por favor? (Excuse me, could you bring me a straw, please?)
En otros países de habla hispana (In other Spanish-speaking countries), like Spain, it is perfectly normal to say coger as an equivalent of “to grab” or “to take”, like cojo el autobús (I take the bus) or cogí las gafas antes de salir (I grabbed the glasses before leaving), but this is a word you should definitely avoid in Mexico, because in Mexico it means “to have sex”… I actually have a little anecdote regarding this word…
Decades ago, una tía mía (an aunt of mine) went to Spain with a friend. They were at a restaurant and a Spanish guy se acercó a su mesa (approached their table) and asked:
- ¿Puedo coger esta silla? (May I grab/take this chair?)
My aunt and her friend started laughing and responded:
- Claro, si puedes. (Sure, if you can!)
Well, you get the idea… So, cuando estés en México (if you are in Mexico), say tomar instead of coger:
- ¿Puedo tomar esta silla? (May I grab this chair?)
- Voy a tomar el autobús. (I’ll take the bus.)
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Before moving on to the next word, I want to give you another tip:
Instead of saying Te recojo a las ocho (I’ll pick you up at 8), which is grammatically correct, say Paso por ti a las ocho (I’ll pick you up at 8).
The reason is that recoger has the verb coger in it, and when you add the prefix re-, it means you are doing something twice. So, te recojo a las ocho could be understood as “I’ll have sex with you twice at 8”.
This one is also problematic even for native Spanish speakers from other countries, like Spain, again.
In Spain, panocha means “corncob” and it’s also used to refer to people from Murcia, so you’ll hear people say:
- Se me antoja una panocha. (I feel like having a corncob.)
But in most of Mexico, panocha is used to refer to female genitalia in a vulgar way. So, if you are craving for a corncob in Mexico, say Se me antoja una mazorca or, even better, Se me antoja un elote o esquite.
¡Otra palabra problemática! (Yet another problematic word!)
In other countries, like Costa Rica, pito is used to refer to a honk. So, usually, when people are stuck in traffic they’ll say:
- Tócale el pito para que se mueva. (Honk at them so they move.)
If you say that in Mexico, you will certainly make that other person move, but not for the reasons you intended because pito is used to refer to male genitalia… and if you combine it with the verb tocar, which also means “to touch”, Tócale el pito para que se mueva gets a whole new meaning.
So, if it’s the honk you want to refer to, make sure you use the following chunk…
- Pítale para que se mueva. (Honk at them so they move.)
Pítale is a perfect example of a chunk! If you ever come to Mexico, you’ll notice Mexicans say it very often. It means “honk at them” and it comes from the verb pitar.
Now, since it will always be the same, you don’t need to learn the rules about how to form it. Instead, you can just learn it by heart and start using it right away!
Food and drinks
5) Taco Bell
La comida mexicana es famosa en todo el mundo (Mexican food is famous all over the world) and it is so delicious that many people do whatever they can to try to imitate it, but not all imitations are good. So, when in Mexico, by all means, avoid saying something along the lines of…
- Mis tacos favoritos son los de Taco Bell. (My favorite tacos are those from Taco Bell.)
This is essentially how you sign tu sentencia de muerte en México (your death sentence in Mexico). You don’t need to tell a Mexican that you hate them, just say that your favorite Mexican food is no Mexican food at all!
To avoid embarrassment, just try real Mexican food! ¡No te arrepentirás! (You won’t regret it!)
Now, Mexicans are very good at partying (I’m not, but most Mexicans are). So, if you tell a Mexican that they are malacopa (lit., bad glass), it’s very likely that they will feel offended because you’re essentially telling them que no saben tomar (that they don’t know how to drink properly).
We say “eres malacopa” if a person loses total control over themselves when they are drinking or drunk. So, this:
Yo soy Queen in the North (I’m the Queen in the North). Queen in the North porque soy de Durango, que está en el norte (because I’m from Durango, which is in the North). So, I am Queen in the North, people. Oaky? ¡No Sansa! (Not Sansa!) Sansa es una pendeja (Sansa is a dumbass). Yo soy Queen in the North (I’m Queen in the North). Ya no tiene nada (There’s nothing in it anymore). ¡Mesero, ya no tiene! ¡Mesero! (Waiter, it’s empty! Waiter!)
… this is malacopa.
Although you would be saying the truth if you call someone malacopa, chances are they won’t take it the right way… Mainly because they probably won’t remember anything…
Politics and racism
This is a very sensitive word —and topic— in Mexico…
Mucha gente en México (Many people in Mexico) will tell you there’s no racism here, but there is… a lot! So much so, that the word indio, which means indigenous, is used as an insult… and it’s a word Mexicans would rather stay away from.
I’ll elaborate: the correct way to refer to someone from India is “es indio” (s/he is Indian), but Mexicans have a hard time saying this because this word is usually used as an insult. Therefore, they prefer saying:
- Es hindú (s/he is Hindu), which is wrong because that word refers to a religion not a country
- Son gente de la India (They are people from India)
- Viene de la India (They come from India)
Why do Mexicans do this? Well, because the word indio has a negative connotation in Mexico. Some indigenous peoples are trying to change this, but that’s another story.
Another touchy subject… I know it’s very tempting to say either of these sentences to indicate that you come from the U.S.:
- Soy americano / americana.
- Vengo de América.
But many Mexicans (myself included) —and probably other Latin AMERICANS— will feel offended because America is an entire continent, not a country.
So, say this instead:
- Soy estadounidense. (I’m from the U.S.)
- Vengo de Estados Unidos. (I come from the U.S.)
And this applies to anything or anyone coming from that country…
Veamos si recuerdas lo que te enseñé hoy (Let’s see if you remember what I taught you today). I will tell you a word that is offensive in Mexico alongside it’s intended meaning, and you have to guess what actually makes it offensive and try to guess what people in Mexico would say instead. Ready?
- Tócale el pito if you mean to say to honk >> ¡Pítale!
- Paja if you mean to say straw >> popote
- Coger if you mean to say “to take” >> tomar
- Americano if you refer to someone from the U.S. >> estadounidense
¿Cómo te fue? (How did you do?) Let me know in the comments! Now, since nobody likes to be insulted and offended, why not compliment someone for a change? You will get much better reactions from Mexicans for a nice compliment, be it in a restaurant or on a date.