Tag Archives: slang

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.”

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

head

As you chat with your Hispanic patient, he tells you that his “coco” hurts. You know he doesn’t mean chocolate, and you’re quite sure he doesn’t really mean “coconut”…In fact, you are nearly positive he means his “head” hurts and can get right to the heart of that matter. After all, you read about it in the English-Spanish section of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient last night. The best part? Your patient feels like you really can communicate together.

 

head (n.)

coco, morra, ayote, chirimoya, maceta, ñola, sesera, shola

tirar el caite

v. to die; lit. “to throw the sandal”;  “caite” is used commonly in Guatemala and El Salvador to mean “sandal”.

inconoso

adj. refers to certain foods which are thought to cause wound infections, such as eggs, fish, avocados and beans. Patients need to be taught about diet to avoid malnutrition and poor wound healing.

echar un pollo

v. lit. to throw out a chicken; to cough up and spit out purulent sputum