Thursday, February 25, 2010

Water in Costa Rica

Agua, one of Costa Rica's most valuable assets, comes in many forms. Water falls from the sky, mixes with clay, springs from the ground, and falls from cliffs. Here is some of the most useful Costa Rican terminology related to water:


llovizna - drizzle or sprinkle

pelo de gato - very light rain

aguacero - torrential downpour

baldazo - literally a big bucket (a storm that's raining buckets)

barro - mud

tierra - soil, earth

arcilla - clay

Natural spring
naciente (f) - natural spring (a word that appears to be almost exclusive to Costa Rica)

manantial (m) - natural spring

catarata - waterfall (cascada is rarely used)

pozo - well

poza - deep swimming hole in a river

bomba - water pump for a well (among many other things, if you care to click on the link)

aguado - watery, dilute

echar agua - conceding position to an opponent to give the impression of weakness, sandbagging

aguadulce - popular drink made of hot water and brown sugar

aguachinarse - to lose one's crops due to excessive rain, to contract a fungal infection from excessive wetness

agua potable - potable water

acueducto - aqueduct, potable water project

agua del tubo - tap water (agua de la llave is more common in South America)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Momses and Dadses"

In rural parts of Costa Rica, people often use a double plural form for certain nouns. That is, they attach an extra plural suffix to a noun where a plural suffix already exists.

To pluralize a word in Spanish you either add an '-s' or an '-es', an 'es' being necessary when the noun ends in a consonant. In Costa Rica I have heard the double plural for 'papases', with an '-s-es' ending.

In this context there is a possible reasonable explanation: If the regular plural form 'papás' refers to one set of parents, 'papases' could conceivably refer to a group of parents.

Regardless of the merits of this armchair etymology, the double plural appears to extend to other nouns whose last syllable is the tonic syllable. For example, I have heard 'mamases' and 'bebeses' (coming from 'bebé'), which contain the double plural, but cannot be rationalized as a group of plural elements.

Double plurals have arisen in other languages, but they usually occur when the former plural suffix becomes improductive. In Spanish, the '-s' and '-es' suffixes are entirely valid standing alone to pluralize their respective nouns, so I don't recommend using the double plural form. But it's sure fun to listen to :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Word of the Day: Palenque

Palenque can mean any number of things in Spanish, from a fence post (or tethering post) to a cockfight. My first exposure to the word was when I was studying slavery in the New World, in which context it means a society of marooned (escaped) slaves.

In Costa Rica, however, palenque is almost exclusively reserved as a generic term for indigenous reservations.

In Costa Rica:

Palenque = reserva indígena