By MELANIE EDWARDS
There is this thing in the Latino culture where your parents, or other relatives, will often say “terms of endearment” that if were said in the English language would be down-right insulting and offensive.
Spanish term/phrase: Esta gordita!
English Translation: She's fat!
Spanish term/phrase: Negrita
English Translation: Dark-skinned girl
SpanglishBaby posted about this issue. It was part of their Ask an Expert series and a reader asked, “Will my daughter be hurt by “negative” Spanish terms of endearment?” She wrote:
“My four month old son is easily entertained and smiles instantly at one’s playful interactions. However, my 22 month old daughter will not be playful until she feels comfortable with someone…The other day he told her (in a playful manner) ‘tu hermano es más bonito que tú porque el se ríe’.”
Translation? “Your brother is prettier than you because he smiles.”
I’ve never really given any of this much thought, but could certainly relate to the reader’s remarks and question. I experienced this myself and have many times been called “gorda” and “negrita.“ You somehow get used to it I guess. Did growing up hearing such comments affect me? I have no clue, honestly. My lack of confidence at times may partly be because of that or a myriad of other things that have happened in my life. Who knows.
In reality, no harm is meant when people say such things. It’s always in a playful manner and said “with love.” Growing up around it and in that culture, you know that to be true. But, now that I have a daughter and enough negative images out there to compete with, I’m certainly more aware of how hearing such things could cause some harm.
I’m not normally one to be overly cautious of how I say things. My husband, his family, my family, and our friends, all pretty much joke in the same manner and don’t hold back. It’s just known that you have to take the jokes to survive in our circle. In fact, if we don’t make fun of you, we probably don’t like you. This probably seems backwards, but the fact is that energy is spent on those we care for.
But, I think with our daughter, there will be a very distinct line between jokes and jokes that involve self-image. In today’s society, and with the culture she’s growing up in, it’s something my husband and I have to really consider.
My favorite part of the expert’s advice to the reader who posed the question:
“When your children are older and better able to understand what is being said, the terms will provide you with an excellent “teachable moment” for discussing cross-cultural communication, which is one of the 21st century skills necessary for success in the global economy!“
Discussing cultural differences and how she should understand and even embrace many of them, is something that I strive to teach my daughter.
Any thoughts? Did you grow up hearing “terms of endearment” that were more hurtful than loving?
Photo Credit: Loligallardo
About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Melanie Edwards is a Modern Mami™. As a latina working mother, she provides an honest depiction of the everyday humor and drama in the life of today's wife, mother and woman from a Latina perspective. She often blogs about the special concerns working mothers have in attempting to achieve a work-life balance. Melanie has been married six years and has a 3-year-old daughter.