Monday, May 25, 2009

Word of the Day: Tortillera

Tortillera is Costa Rican slang for 'lesbian'. Because of the connotation of the word, people usually avoid using it to describe a woman who makes tortillas.

It isn't widely considered offensive in Costa Rica, although perhaps it should. Reason being: the words 'playo' and 'tortillera' (used for 'gay' and 'lesbian', respectively) are so commonplace in Costa Rican language that they are often used generically for homosexual people. As a result, people don't necessarily mean harm when they use the terms. However, homosexuality isn't always seen in a positive light in what is a strongly Christian (Catholic, and increasingly Evangelical) country, so playo and tortillera are often used in a negative fashion.

With that said, people will figure out for themselves what is offensive and what isn't. I have met gay people in Costa Rica who use the words playo and tortillera in a joking manner. Others might not find it so funny, so I don't recommend using these words.

14 comments:

mrwisley said...

okay...I get the usage of the term, but can you enlighten me on the ORIGIN of it? How is a lesbian like a tortilla maker? Or was it at one point thought that all tortilla makers were (jokingly) lesbian? Or is it some graphic play on words that I just don't get (like tortilla means vagina or something?)

Thomas Carmona said...

I suppose I did leave that unclear. Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure about the exact origin. Tortilla certainly refers to vagina, but I don't know how it became so. Perhaps there is some sort of graphic likeness between the two, but I don't see it.

I will look into it. If I gain insight into tortillera etymology I will let you know.

Thomas Carmona said...

Caveat: In my experience, tortilla is not used generically for vagina. It is only used as a synonym for vagina in the limited context of this term, tortillera.

To illustrate with an example in English, consider the term 'rug muncher', which is perhaps the closest thing we can get to an English equivalent of tortillera. 'Rug' refers to vagina, but without the context of 'rug muncher', 'rug' most often just means the thing you roll out on your floor. In fact, that's all it would mean without this very specific (graphic) metaphor. (Please forgive the example, but I couldn't come up with a better one.)

mrwisley said...

perfectly all right! Thanks for the follow-up. If you do find more info later, please advise (although it's just out curiosity). Rug can easily be seen as the pubic hair, but like you, I see no similarity to a tortilla. ;)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. It was used in the 4th season 5th episode of Weeds by a Mexican drug trafficker; I heard it last night and it got me googling. is it used in Mexico as well as Costa Rica? I learned it Spain twenty-five years ago and have been similarly puzzled by etymology. In Spain a case could be made that a tortilla maker - as in a maker of SPANISH tortilla - needs to break a lot of eggs, and "huevoes" being slang for "testicles" it might follow that a "ballbreaker", or one with no use for balls, breaks a lot of them, and is therefore a tortilla maker. Cannot remember if I figured this out on my own or it was told to me. but either way it doesn't hold outside the "tortilla de patatas" world. Adding to the confusion, I remain yrs humbly & etc.

Anonymous said...

I remember asking the same thing when I lived in CR. I actually lived with a lesbian couple. They often joked about the torillera word. Supposedly, the action that folks would do when they would infer that someone was lesbian was to slap their hands together like they were making tortillas. Very tico, don't say anything, just make the signal that someone is lesbian by slapping hands together like someone making tortillas. When I asked my friends, who where Ticas, they told me it was like the sound of two lesbians bodies having sex slapping together like someone making tortillas. Just my two colones...

Nickleus said...

how does one make tortillas? =)

CR. Troy said...

By hand. Slapping dough between your hands and forming the tortilla. To demonstrate, slap you hand together, then start turning them around in a circle until your fingertips are tip to palm.

Anonymous said...

while in Mexico a friend explained it this way: 2 women having sex = two bodies just rubbing against one another, just like the hands while making a tortilla. hence, "tortillera". it's kind of offensive in mexico.

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Anonymous said...

I had been told by an old girlfriend that the lesbians make love like two tortillas slapping together.

This is consistent.

Stagewhisper said...

For some reason I was under the impression it had something to do with the grinding of the corn - in euphemistic terms, the clitoris - but I think the clapping/slapping is relevant too...

Anonymous said...

I saw the word in a California love novel 11 years ago n today is when I get the meaning

Anonymous said...

Tortillera is not only a Costa Rican word. It's widely used in most Spanish speaking countries.