Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Spanish commonality


I love when someone else breaks down data into ways I can understand it. If you give me a spreadsheet with a bunch of numbers, I will have no idea how to interpret it, but put that same stuff on a map and suddenly, it comes alive.

Here’s a map of “the most common surnames in Europe” as collected by some person on Reddit.

most-popular-surnames-by-country-europe_0I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information presented, but it’s kind of fun to think about. I should note that everyone in Spain has two last names, one from each parent, so I’m not sure which one was taken into account here.

As an aside, when people in Barcelona heard where I was from, they invariably remarked that my last name wasn’t characteristic of the area. When I mentioned another family last name, they would respond along the lines of, “THAT’s more like it!” People move away from their home town / region so seldom in Spain that their last name alone often indicates where they come from. As an American, this freaks me the hell out.

Since I’m all about equal-opportunity-insulting and don’t think by any means that only Americans are idiots (I think most people are idiots), here’s a list of the most common spelling mistakes Spaniards make in English according to the people over at Cambridge English. (They run the English certification exams in most of Europe and have collected an impressive amount of data on ESL.)

Wich instead of “which”
Confortable instead of “comfortable”
Becouse instead of “because”
Accomodation instead of “accommodation”
Posible instead of “possible”
Belive instead of “believe”
Diferent instead of “different”
Bycicle instead of “bicycle”
Enviroment instead of “environment”
Beatiful instead of “beautiful”
Recomend instead of “recommend”
Begining instead of “beginning”
Responsability instead of “responsibility”
Demostration instead of “demonstration”
Recived instead of “received”
Oportunity instead of “opportunity”
Advertisment instead of “advertisement”
Until spelled correctly but regularly misused
Ruber instead of “rubber” (US: eraser)
Bussiness instead of “business”

As you’ll notice, a lot of the mistakes are from double-lettering, something that isn’t common in Spanish. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only correct doublings are “ll” and “rr.” (This excludes loan-words.) Other things  which trip them up are French-based words (always tricky) and words with difficult-for-them letter combinations like the “nm” in “environment.” This last thing is something that always confounded me since Spaniards are used to pronouncing every letter in a word and yet, in English, they often omit whole syllables or add letters where they don’t exist.

The article from which this info came notes that Spaniards have come up with 237 different ways to spell “because.” This is genuinely shocking to me. I don’t think that even if I tried for a week I’d come up with 100 different ways, but the Spanish are a special lot of individuals. (Especial is the colloquial way Spaniards express that someone is “difficult,” “touched in the head” or “generally impossible.”)

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

5 thoughts on “Spanish commonality

  1. Your explanation of “special” made me think this little snippet might interest you. I live part of the time in southern England, and the rest of the time in Edinburgh. In England “special” usually means something unusually good. In Scotland is current colloquial meaning seems to accord with the Spanish “not quite right in the head”.

    • I have always suspected that Scotland and I would agree with each other. They love movies, books, beer and old architecture and have a snarky sense of humor. The only thing I don’t know if I could handle is the food there (lots of boiled things, no?). And maybe the weather. And the general humidity. I feel like I’m talking myself out of going!

  2. I love this because I make similar mistakes when writing in Spanish! I had a field day of extra m’s and s’s and such when having to write the word ‘comisionista’ the other day.

    • Remember that there are ONLY double-Ls and double-Rs in Spanish and that accents only go one way (thís wáy ónly), and your spelling life will be easier. I was more used to writing in French where doubling is common (that’s where English gets it) and frequently spelled tons of things wrong until I drilled the above rule into my head.

  3. very cool map.!! Thanks for sharing :)

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