Spanish, Spanglish and Nicaraguan

Susan and I have been having a conversation that has evolved into more or less the title here. The word for computer came up. I first heard computadora in Costa Rica and that seems to be the norm here in Nicaragua. But, ordenador got added to my vocabulary when watching ST:TNG in Spanish.

The popular opinion is that ordenador is real Spanish (as from Spain) and compuador or computadora are Latin American Spanish. That got me thinking about how the Spanish language evolves. And, well, any language evolves. Here is my theory of the morning.

When something new appears, it will probably start its life as a chunche. That is, a thingie. It might be "the thingie to create spreadsheets" but it doesn't have its own name. If it becomes important enough locally (and I mean locally at the community level) then its individual name evolves.

I would guess that a name in Latin America is more likely to evolve from English than it would in Europe. The computer continues to be a good example as I expect the first at least personal computers in Latin America came from US sources. That would mean documentation in English and even company names or divisions with the word computer in them. In Europe, early computer technology probably came from local manufacturers and documentation translated to many languages seems to be the norm.

Now, let me address what I meant by local. In Estelí there are lots of computers. It is a significant part of people's lives as are cars, televisions, cellular phones and lots of other stuff. They all tend to have names. But, when you get into the campo, these things don't matter. So, for example, if someone here says "una barra" it will mean a piece of steel, pointed on one end and flat on the other, used to make holes in the ground (and lots of other things). People will not ask if you are talking about a loaf of bread or lipstick.

Unfortunately, as I did a bit of research I see that computador is the Portugese word for computer. So, I need a new theory.

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Word origins

Computer is an english word so it got turned into spanglish..."computadora"! If something new comes directly from an english speaking country or source, then most spanish speaking countries adopt the english name with a spanish pronunciation. Like "beisbol" (baseball), "honron" (homerun), "naucaut" (knockout), etc. I have a theory (have no idea is it anywhere near the truth) about inside toilets here in Nicaragua. They call the toilet the "inodoro" here in Nicaragua. I think maybe the first person to have one installed inside the house probably either learned of the idea from the USA or someone from the USA was the first to have one in Nicaragua. So being of the english language origin, they probably said something like..."This device is for indoors!!! And the people who spoke spanish began to call it an "inodoro" or "indoor" device. Just a thought!

From the Latin



Well, that just stinks!

We Used Excusado

or maybe it was spelled Xcusado in northern Mexico. I never saw it spelled out.

The word was most often shortened to 'cusado, leading to the obvious joke that played on the words cusado and casado . . . .

Double entendre Excusado

Leave it to the Mexicans . There was this show called El Chavo del Ocho. The show was supposed to be for kids but there was a little bit of adult humor. One was the word play with Excusado. Besides latrine, Excusado also means 'excused' as in you're excused. As a ten year old I didn't catch the joke until some years later. The bit went something like this: this character named Profesor Girafales, who was in love with doña Florinda always made some silly mistake to wich he, being the gentleman he thought of himself, would readily say Excuseme, and surely the reply would follow with the double entendre Esta usted excusado. In case you don't get it let me know, I'll be happy to explain. So for now Disculpenme, not excusenme, but I must go.

Computadora and Inodoro

Computer (computador/a or calculador/a) from the Latin computus- computare : someone or something that does mathematical calculations. Inodoro from the Latin inodorus : negative prefix in, as in no or without or Sin in spanish, and odor or olor in Spanish. Meaning in Spanish sin olor or odorless. Ironic isn't it.

the plot thickens

I was telling Phil that my 5 language visual dictionary is from Europe and uses computadora for Spain and Italy, and l'ordinateur for France - sorry, no entry for Portugal - but that contradicts the Bing translator which suggested equipo, and then said informática español ordenador masculino, Latinoamérica computadora femenino


has an academy that picks what they want in their language. Latin america seems to use the more informal style like American English: what ever gets used by newspapers, tv, and the general public sticks and eventually gets put in the dictionaries.

And then in the country it gets simplifies to their reality. In Esteli spanish, a ``garaje`` tends to be anywhere you park a car, such as a piece of dirt behind a locked gate. I also might be a carport, a garage, or the half of the living room where you part your car. It`s all ``garaje``.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand