November 3, 2014

Spanish dictionary adds words useful for action flicks, also some other words


Spanish is ready for this scenario now. Image via Shutterstock.

Spanish is ready for this man now. Image via Shutterstock.

The Real Academia Española is the institution responsible for determining what is and isn’t acceptable in Spanish, and as such, one of its duties is updating the official dictionary.

This week, they announced the publication of the 23rd edition of the Diccionario de la lengua española, expanded by 5,000 new words, and it looks like the Real Academia Española is psyching itself up for “Mission: Impossible 5”: it’s added words like “hacker,” “cameo,” “affaire,” and “drone” (though it’s spelled “dron,” so it won’t be pronounced “dron-ay”).

English, it turns out, has given Spanish words for mostly terrible things, like “botox” and “establishment.” Yes, apparently the idea of an “establishment” is so deeply connected to the English-speaking world that “establishment” has made its way into the language over Spanish alternatives. Or possibly the vagueness and dullness of “establishment” is better at expressing a vague, dull entity than any of the more concrete Spanish terms.

Our global dominance of words connected with the internet and cellphones remains strong: “chat,” “link,” “SMS”, “wifi,” and, amazingly, for a deeply conservative institution, “whatsapp”  were also added. “Bloguero” for “blogger” also made it in, which makes no sense, given the length of time people have been blogging versus the length of time people have been using WhatsApp. Or maybe the Academia has just been saving up: it’s been thirteen years since the last edition, and now they’re sure blogging isn’t going away. Some familiar terms also got nicely bent along the way: “tweet” turned into “tuit.”

Other languages made their mark in other domains, though. An “affaire” can now officially refer to “an amorous adventure” as well as its broader, more ambiguous meaning, so that’s several (unsurprising) points for the French. The Italian word for beer, “birra,” can be now be used alongside “cerveza.” From Japanese, they got “manga” and “sunami” (for “tsunami”); from Arabic, “burka” and “yihad.”

The Spanish neologisms are some of the more revealing additions, for an outsider. For instance, do you know what a “mileurista” is? It’s the word used to describe the new category of qualified, highly educated workers in their 20s and 30s who nevertheless can expect to earn no more than 1,000 euros a month–the Great Young Unemployed.

But while jobless, the youthful Spanish speakers of the world might have other consolations: also given the stamp of approval in this edition was “amigovio,” which combines “amigo” and “novio” (fiancé)—in other words, “friends with benefits.”


Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.