Sunday, August 16, 2009

Confession # 4--Terms of Endearment... or Not?

So, I call my kids "Fatty" and "Lil' Chubs"...

Ok, well not in those terms exactly, or even in that language to be exact.

I call my daughter "Gorda" or "Gordita" (Spanish for fat and its diminutive form) and I call my son "Gordo" or "Gordito."

The translation into English sounds terrible, I know. In my defense, it is not my fault... it's cultural... well, not my culture, or not my 1st culture anyway, my 2nd culture: Chile.

Terms of endearment in Chile, (and most of the Spanish-speaking world, but I will refer to Chile, specifically, since that is what I know best) are not "sweet" as they are in the U.S. They don't call their wives/husbands, sons/daughters "honey," "sweetheart," "pumpkin," or "sugar."

They call them "gordo" and "gorda." There are a few alternatives every once in a while: "flaca/flaco" (skinny); "negro/negra" (black); and "guaton" (big-belly). These are actually nicknames your classmates and friends might have for you at school as well, but are genearally not mean-spirited.

Calling someone "gordo/gorda" or "flaco/flaca" is not an insult and it doesn't necessarily have to do with actual body size... I mean, it might, conincidentally, but that is just what they call everybody.

I didn't really want to use these terms with my kids, especially my daughter, since we are, for now, living in the U.S. and weight is such a sensitive issue here, not the matter-of-fact characteristic it is in Spanish-speaking cultures. But that is what my husband calls her and what his family calls her... and it is contagious, and it just sticks... and once I started calling her that, I can't stop. With my son it went down the same way. So what can I do?

I have many other terms of endearment for them too, in both English and Spanish, and this is just one of them. (I hope they never feel bad about it.)

My husband does not call me "gorda." I think I insinuated early on that it would not sound particularly endearing to me. So he calls me "piojito" which means "little louse"... but in a totally sweet and loving way.

You can read more of my sins here, here, and here.


Sara said...

Are you reading my mind?!?! I was just going to post about this.

I heard that while Shakira was growing up they called her negrita. And there is nothing negra about Shakira. But, then again, in Colombia and Venezuela I saw that they tend to call someone the opposite of their most prominent feautre, so a skinny person would be gordita and a fat person might be flaquita.

But, I might slap someone just on principle for calling me gordita. My bf tried it once. Once. Never again.

I know that here it is culture, but I can't help wondering if it does lead to some sort of complex in the people who have those nicknames.

Amanda said...

My husband does not call me by any of those names. BUT he calls his daughter "guatona" sometimes, usually "mono."

anymommy said...

It says a lot about our culture (of skinny obsession) here that these terms would be construed as negative automatically. I think it's fabulous that they are owned as endearments in Chile.

I call my kids bubba. All of them. So unoriginal.

mosey along said...

Although my daughter is "Sweetpea" mostly, I think I'm taking a page out of anymommy's book and will start calling her BUBBA just 'cause I love it so much! Hope you don't mind, anymommy. ;)

I love hearing about the quirks of cultures other than mine. It's always made me laugh that curse words in French are all religion-oriented.

Margaret said...

I once had an English student who was telling me about his weekend, and I couldn't help but burst out laughing when he said in excellent English, "so I said to my wife, Fatty, we have to..." (insert teacher's surprised outburst here) He and the other very Chilean students thought it was very strange that the affectionate "Gordita" would not win them much affection as "Fatty" in English!

La Chileng├╝ita said...

Hi, thanks for the blog comment! I'm glad to hear other couples still celebrate their mesario too!

My husband and I call each other "monito/monita" in Spanish. In general, his nicknames for me were always more on the sweet side when considering Chilean nicknames (never gorda, guatona, etc.)--which I am glad about cuz that wouldn't sit well with me either. In general, our nicknames in English aren't as sweet, but I won't list them here. Now though, we've been calling each other Papi & Mami (or Daddy & Mommy) ever since we got our little puppy, who we consider our baby :)

It is a great point that you make though of the culture differences. In the Chilean culture (and probably other Spanish-speaking cultures) it isn't rude at all...but in the US culture it would totally be offensive.

HereBeDragons said...

I had a boyfriend from Ecuador who always called me gordita (which I hated) and flacita (which I didn't mine so much). And he called his friends and sister negrita. Totally weirded me out. Nice to know it's normal!