On Language


Bad Words

Coño, from the Latin cunnus, “female pudenda.” 1. Noun, vulgar for female genitalia. 2. Adjective, in Ecuador and Chile, stingy, synonym of tacaño. 3. Interjection, very Caribbean, and hip, versatile, urban. Coño, mi amor, estás irresistible, is a compliment for both men and women. But with anger, after waiting two hours for a spouse in a restaurant, stressing the second o, if words could kill, coñó would do it. Coño also connotes surprise, astonishment: ¡Coño que grande! Read more.

Carajonoun, archaic for ‘penis.’ In modern parlance carajo ranks top next to coño and puta as a prevalent and versatile interjection for anger: carajo, ¿qué es esto? For pleasure: ¡Ay, carajo, que rico! For surprise: ¿Qué carajo es esto? Threatening: ¡Mucho cuidado, carajoThe noun is used for a despicable person: Pedro es un verdadero carajoIn the dimutive form, carajito, in Santo Domingo is a young child. In Spain carajito is a espresso with brandy.  

Puta, noun, ‘whore.’  Since mothers are the object of deep sensitivities, hijo de puta, son of a whore, is quite ominous. A student asked me, considering mothers are so revered in Latin America, is hijo de puta the worst insult? The worst, I said, except for ¡hijo de la gran puta!


Raúl Guerrero is a journalist, historian, and  writer specializing in women’s struggles and language. He is the author of numerous works, notably the novels INSOLENCE and La dudosa fuga de la cronista LIBERTINA. He lectures frequently in Florida and New York. 

Contact him at RGuerrero@salonespanol.com


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