A Short Glossary of Insults and Off-Color Street Spanish. Find the whole list here

Among some groups, I suppose this vocabulary could be considered high-frequency, but not in polite company.

This material was originally published in Conversational Spanish, a textbook I wrote and used in my college classes for almost 20 years.  It is intended to inform adults. I have never taught my upper-level high school students units on cussing in Spanish, despite their ardent pleas over the years. Although I agree that it would be useful for them to be aware of some of the curse words in Spanish, I never felt the risk was worth it–and forget about teaching these words to middle schoolers or freshmen.

But for teachers and administrators, awareness of these words might be useful. Here is a cheat sheet of the most common words that students will likely try to slip by you:

This vocabulary will not be of interest to all. Those that are offended by off-color allusions should skip this post and any accompanying discussions. But before skipping it, consider how it can help:

• AVOID EMBARRASSMENT: I do not cuss often, but I have done so unintentionally a few times after picking up expressions that I thought were just mild interjections in other languages. Hopefully this glossary will help to prevent that with new Spanish teachers.

• CULTURAL INSIGHTS: The glossary can also help to give some insight into cultural values in the Spanish-speaking world. The information is off-color, but it will give you glimpses into the minds of native speakers, supported by commentary by legitimate sources such as Alan Riding and Octavio Paz.

• HELP FOR TEACHERS: Many teachers that work with native Spanish-speaking adolescents have found this material useful because a few kids will always try to test the language limits of non-native adults. There is also a list of sources for further reading at the end of the document.

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