Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tamaño Poco

The Spanish word 'tamaño' is a noun meaning 'size', but in Costa Rica it can be used as an adjective as part of an idiomatic expression. The phrase 'tamaño poco', which shouldn't make sense by any stretch of standard Spanish, in Costa Rica means 'a lot of' or 'a substantial amount of'. For example:

Antes era un pobre, pero ahora tiene tamaño poco ganado.
[Translation] Before he was a poor man, but now he has a considerable amount of cattle.

You will hear stuff like this all the time in the Costa Rican countryside. Now, read the following example that highlights an important characteristic of this Costa Rican idiom:

Antes era un pobre, pero ahora tiene tamaño poco plata.
[Translation] Before he was a poor man, but now he has a considerable amount of money.

After seeing this example, and thinking of 'tamaño poco' as 'a lot' or the Spanish 'mucho/a', you might expect the former to take on the gender of the noun it's describing like most Spanish adjectives. 'Tamaño poco', however, effectively functions as a noun phrase that leads into a prepositional phrase. That's why I prefer to say that 'tamaño poco' means 'a considerable amount of' or 'a substantial amount of' instead of simply say it means 'a lot'.


Erin said...

I didn't know that one! These kind of things are exactly what I need to learn to sound more and more "tica," i.e. more and more accepted.

Thanks and please seguí en la lucha!

Thomas Carmona said...

I accept you just the way you are, Erin. But you know what, you might not have known about this one because they might not say it much where you live. It might be more of a rural thing. Sometimes I fail to communicate the extent to which I'm commenting on rural language, which is my true passion, as dorky as that sounds! I find it fascinating how what is considered non-standard language can nonetheless be governed by well-established rules. Most people simply assume that such rules don't exist because they don't know about them. (And often because they choose not to somehow justify "low-class" ways of speaking.) But they do! You just have to spend a lot of time studying the way people speak to figure out what is a mistake and what is both intentional and rule-governed.

Erin said...

My tico Spanish is definitely influenced by those around me, most specifically my boyfriend. He doesn't use much pachuco, though he'll occasionaly spout out a manda güevo or some such phrase that makes my ears perk up and commit the words to memory.

I questioned him on this, and he confirmed that he's heard it, but doesn't use it. He also mentioned that you can drop the "poco" and the phrase still retains its meaning. At least in his personal tico Spanish!

I love tiny dialects, too... not just tico Spanish, but its subsets. My personal favorite for the moment is the pachuco tico, as spoken by most teenage boys in San José... I find it so amusing and colorful (to use a euphemism)!

Thomas Carmona said...

Thanks for your valuable input! He's right, just plain ol' 'tamaño' often works just fine by itself. However, when the expression is used without the noun it's describing, 'poco' is often needed for identification.

For example:

Q: How much money is in your bank account?

A-1: Tamaño plata


A-2: Tamaño poco (the 'plata' is assumed and the 'poco' is then needed)


A-3: Tamaño poco plata (all together)

I think I have it right here. Let me know if your boyfriend says otherwise.