Category Archives: Word of the Week

A toad’s eye?

Today’s post is a great example of the eccentricities of language that make it so fun and fascinating! Have you ever heard the Spanish phrase “ojo de sapo”? Did you know what it means? Of course, literally, it means “eye of toad” or “toad’s eye”, but it also has another meaning…

ojo de sapomoonshine (as in homemade alcoholic beverages)

Really.

What’s the origin? Well, to be honest, we don’t now, but we’d love to find out, so drop us a comment if you know!

 

canilla

You’ve dreamed of this day. You’ve studied and saved for this day. Now here it is: your first day seeing patients with a medical mission team in Guatemala.

The still-cool morning breezes waft through the metal screens over the windows of the concrete building. You smile at your first patient, a man from the campo who looks like he has labored long throughout his life, and begin a conversation. Since you’ve studied Spanish for several years now, your team decided you don’t need one of the in-demand interpreters as much as other team members, so you’re on your own for this conversation. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Then your patient says, “Me duele mi canilla.” 

Your optimistic thoughts screech to a halt. Canilla? You’ve never heard that word! So much for those years of studying. The way he set his worn hand on his leg makes you think there’s some connection, but you want to know…and you don’t want your ignorance to make him feel uncomfortable.

You calmly look around. No interpreters nearby.

Then you remember that little blue book your dad gave you when he dropped you off at the airport. “Might come in handy,” he said.

You pull it out of the bag on the table next to you. It’s a glossary. Where are the “c” words? Oh, yay, there it is! 

canilla – leg, lower leg

You look your patient in the eye with a smile and say, “¿Se duele su canilla?” You set your hand on your leg like he had. “¿Cómo su pierna?

¡Sí!” He nods his head vigorously. “Me duele mi canilla.”

Oh, good! Now you can continue with your consultation.

Later you get a chance to ask one of the translators about canilla. He laughs. “Canilla is like an animal’s leg,” he says. “People, especially those who grew up speaking a Mayan language and speak Spanish as a second language, use it for a person’s leg, too.”

Ah, now you understand even better. And maybe tonight you’ll look through more of those words from that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. It seems like it really might come in handy.

Gearing up for a medical mission trip to Guatemala or know someone who is? Maybe you’ll want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. Check it out on Amazon today!

 

kneecap

“Me duele la tapita,” your patient says, gingerly touching her knee, to the interpreter next to you.

“Her kneecap hurts,” the interpreter informs you.

You proceed with the office visit, but your brain is wondering, Didn’t I just learn that ‘tapita’ means bottle cap? (You’ve been trying to learn a little Spanish yourself.)

Before the interpreter leaves, you get to ask her.

“Yes, according to your regular Spanish-English medical dictionary rótula is actually the word for kneecap, but I have this.” She pulls a blue, pocket-sized book from her purse.

You look at the title. ‘Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. Pretty long name for such a small book.”

She laughs. “I know, right? Well, there are more than 600 terms just in the Spanish-English section, a lot of them slang. Since many of the people we serve here are Guatemalans who don’t speak real dictionary Spanish. It’s helped me out more than once. See? Right here in the English-Spanish section.”

Kneecap – tapita.”

“That’s right. I love it when I know just the right word to make our patients feel understood.”

jaundice

One glance at the baby tells you the diagnosis. “Tiene ictericia,” you tell the Guatemalan mother. Bewilderment covers her face. You carefully explain the causes and treatments for jaundice. All of a sudden, the mother smiles and says, “Pues, es como amarillo, verdad?” Amarillo? Yellow? That could make sense. That’s when you remember the pocket-sized book you stuffed in your bag a while ago. You find it and look through the English-Spanish section. There it is:

jaundice amarillo 

Now it’s your turn to smile. “Sí, es como amarillo,” you confirm. As you answer a couple of the mother’s questions, you make a mental note to look through that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient tonight.  

to become infected

Today one of your patients is from a rural area of Guatemala. Thanks to your prior interactions with her, you know that she uses more slang expressions than otherwise. You need to explain  how to care for her injury so that it doesn’t become infected. Instead of the traditional phraseology, you decide to try out a new word you learned from that pocket-sized, blue book you keep in your desk drawer. After the word, “inconarse” leaves your lips, a smile brightens your patient’s face. You’ve connected.

infected, to become

inconarse, madurar

folk illnesses

Have you heard of these Guatemalan folk illnesses? Search our “Word(s) of the Week” archives to see some of the definitions or have them all at your fingertips after you pick up your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient on Amazon.

folk illnesses (n.)

aire, cir, ciro, empacho, mal hecho, mal ojo, pérdida del alma, pujo, susto

calf (of the leg)

calf (of the leg) n.

camote, pantorrilla (more formal), posta (also means a cut of meat)