Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Costa Rican Spanish Word of the Day: Gallina de Palo

A common Costa Rican nickname for the iguana is gallina de palo, essentially meaning "chicken of the tree". (The resemblance to the popular brand of tuna in the US is a mere coincidence.) Actually, gallina specifically means 'hen' and 'palo' most formally means 'stick'. However, Costa Ricans will commonly use the word 'palo' whenever talking about a tree. When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I was taken on a walk in the woods and was met with some great confusion when someone was trying to point out a "stick" about 50 feet off the ground. The "stick" turned out to be a pretty big one, firmly planted into the ground!

Anyway, they call the iguana gallina de palo because it tastes a lot like chicken. Yum!

Todavía en la lucha,



Manuel said...

This is an old use of the word palo which has survived in some areas and countries. That's exactly the meaning of palo in some American city names such as Palo Alto and Palos Verdes.

Great blog!


Thomas Carmona said...

Thanks for your comments, Manuel. Growing up in the States, I didn't pay much attention to meaning of certain cities. I guess you're right--in California they're not talking about sticks!

I had never learned 'palo' as árbol when growing up. My father, who is from Mexico, always uses very formal Spanish. I couldn't see him using 'palo' to mean 'tree'. I'm glad that I have since expanded my horizons to learn the Spanish of Ecuador, Chile, and now Costa Rica. It's that diversity in language that this blog celebrates.