For some reason, this old post on some of my favorite words in Spanish has been getting a lot of traffic lately. Those words are great, but unfortunately I don’t find many opportunities to work floripondio, acuatizaje, or gordinflón into conversations. (Despite our obesity epidemic, we Americans are pretty touchy about this being pointed out to us. Thus, you can only think gordinflón; you can’t say it. Unless you’re The Onion, of course.)
Some of the words on that list do get a lot of mileage in my daily parlance, though: words like mijo/mija, ojalá, and pues. Today I want to write about amanecer, the second word on the list. He’s number two, but he tries harder than number one (inmiscuirse), and he’s infinitely more interesting. He’s also much more useful than, say, pluviosidad. Of course, I support beauty for beauty’s sake, so there’s nothing wrong with being beautiful and (practically) useless. We just get more opportunities to admire the loveliness of words like amanecer when they lend themselves more easily to the prose of daily life.
I’m sure you’re familiar with amanecer. It means to dawn, for the sun to come up. Amanecer as a noun means sunrise, dawn, daybreak.
Hoy amaneció a las 5:55.
Today the sun came up at 5:55.
Rezo por ti cada noche, amanece y pienso en ti. (Shakira)
I pray for you every night; at dawn I think of you.
Después del concierto nos quedamos tomando vino hasta que amanecía.
After the concert we drank wine until it was beginning to get light out.
Nunca alcanzamos a ver el amanecer juntos.
We never got a chance to watch a sunrise together.
Another very widespread usage of amanecer is to wake up, especially to talk about your location or how you feel. ¿Cómo amaneciste? is the standard question for this, and you ask it to your fellow household dwellers (partner, family) as you groggily pad about in the mornings. You can also ask close friends or coworkers if it’s still a.m. What is it asking? Poetically, how did you dawn? (You can, after all, tell people that they’re un sol–a sweetheart–so why can’t they dawn and dusk?) Really, it’s, how’d you sleep? How are you feeling this morning? Did you wake up on the right side of the bed? Rodney wrote a post on it a while back. Ojo, it usually sounds more like ¿Cómo ‘maneciste?
Describing how you feel:
Sudafed te tumba pero amaneces renovada. Es buenísimo.
Sudafed will knock you out, but you’ll wake up a new person. It’s amazing.
Amanecí bien, pero hoy salí bastante aburrido del trabajo.
I felt good this morning, but I left work today extremely unhappy.
En estos días mi niño me amanece enfermito y con una infección en los ojitos.
The past few days, my son has been waking up sick and with an eye infection.
Describing where you are:
Amanecí otra vez entre tus brazos, y desperté llorando de alegría. (Chavela Vargas)
At daybreak I found myself once again in your arms, and I awoke crying tears of happiness.
Nos quedamos dormidos en el avión y amanecimos sobre Madrid.
We fell asleep on the plane and woke up over Madrid.
In Colombia, they frequently say amanecer to mean to spend the night somewhere. Actually, I never heard this in Bogotá, but I heard it constantly in Medellín. Maybe it’s used in Bogotá as well, but I never noticed it. Although I lived in a more or less central part of Medellín, on the weekends I’d often go to Bello, a municipality to the north. Once it got late, the question was always whether to amanecer or not to amanecer; to just stay the night at the family’s house or head all the way back. I can’t find a single citation of this usage online, but I know it’s common in Colombia. Anywhere else? I love that rather than focusing on where you spend the night and perhaps using atardecer or anochecer, this usage instead focuses on where you spend the dawn. Mom, can I spend the dawn with Amy? Perhaps instead of a slumber party, we’d call it an awakening party. What’s better– to fall asleep by a lover’s side, or to wake up next to them? Which should we emphasize? Isn’t language rich? Living in Colombia and inhabiting this beautiful Spanish, I felt like I lived in a poem.
El sábado decidí amanecer en casa de mi familia, pues se me hizo tarde, además también estaba lloviendo.
On Saturday I decided to stay the night at my family’s house because it was getting late, and on top of that it was raining.
Voy a amanecer donde mi tía la noche antes del matrimonio.
I’m going to stay at my aunt’s place the night before the wedding.
Amanece, quédate a mi lado toda la noche hasta que llegue el día, reina de mi vida. (Doctor Krapula- Colombian band)
Stay the night, stay by my side all night long until day comes, my queen.
Amanecer muerto is a way of saying that someone was found dead in the morning. Maybe they died in their sleep, or maybe they passed away in a less peaceful manner. It’s now lights out for them.
One must-know phrase–at least in Colombia and, it appears, Venezuela–is this one: amanecerá y veremos. Literally, it will dawn and we’ll see. Figuratively, pretty much the same. Tomorrow will come and then we’ll see. Let’s wait and see. Only time can tell. Seeing is believing. Amanecerá y veremos can be an innocent enough phrase that merely indicates that there’s no point in stressing out and that we’ll know the answers to our questions soon. It can also be a synonym, though, of a cynical attitude of indifference and apathy. Sort of a, Harumph! Oh yeah? Such and such politician said they’d do that? Time will tell, I guess, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. It’s like an eye roll and a shrug, transcribed.
When checking in new patients at work, we have to ask them a litany of questions, one of which is something like, “Is there anyone in your life who threatens or abuses you?” (¿Hay alguien en su vida que le amenace o lo maltrate?) I always mentally trip over threaten, though, and have to sort through in a nanosecond whether it’s amenazar or amanecer, amenace or amanece (amanezca). Is there anyone in your life who dawns you? Would you like there to be? I know I would.
In case you were wondering, you can’t use amanecer to express that something dawned on you. If you have an aha moment, you’ll want to say se me ocurrió or caí en la cuenta.
So, do you concur with me that amanecer is as beautiful and fascinating word as what it describes? Definitely as worth it to learn as an amanecer is worth waking up early for.