Random word of the day: daltónico

I wasn’t bringing in nearly enough money writing here, so I went out and procured some good old-fashioned gainful employment for myself. ¡Por fin! This means I’ll have less time to blog, but I see it as a good thing in the end. Better to spend more time using my Spanish and less time pondering it. Entries will hopefully be shorter and more to the point. Also, more random. Remember, I’m just sharing as I go along. Things that are useful for me may be one shipment after another of left shoes for you. Our Spanish mileage may vary, but hopefully una que otra cosa gets your inner Spanish nerd excited. Not that there’s anything “inner” about mine! If I’m not talking in Spanish, I’m talking about Spanish. If I’m not doing either, you know I’m just biding my time.

I work in a team of four people. There’s me; Mónica, a woman from Ecuador; Helga, a woman from Brazil; and John, an American who grew up in Venezuela and Brazil. All of a sudden, my days are filled with Spanish and Portuguese. As you can imagine, I’m in heaven, jotting down words from both languages as I catch them. Today, I was working and only half-listening as Helga said something while squinting at her computer. Not knowing what the topic was, I heard her mention something about being “daltonic.” My little bat ears perked up, way up. Ahhhh. Could it be? Me suena, me suena . . . It was ringing a very tiny bell far away muffled under a pillow. Yes, I know that word. Not at the tip of my tongue but rather, as Billy Collins put it, lurking in some obscure corner of my spleen, I recovered the word from its long slumber. Daltónico! Color-blind! Yes, surely that’s what she meant to say when she said “daltonic.”

And sure enough, it was.

Daltónico/a = color blind

(Daltônico in Portuguese)

Mónica then confirmed it for me. It sounds so technical to me . . . and I can’t help but think of Dalmatians when I think of that word. A mnemonic that’s useful in its way, I s’pose. You can also say ciego/a a los colores.

If you’re wondering who in the world Dalton was, here’s a history lesson. Apparently, he was a color-blind English chemist and physicist who gave the first accurate description of the defect. Now he’s known the Latin American world over–I say it’s high time we English speakers also gave the man his due.

¡Daltónico! Keep at it with your Spanish and this will come in handy one day. Someone somewhere will suddenly start to go color-blind, and you’ll be in the only one in the room who knows the word for it, and then you’ll help the doctors stop the blindness just in the nick of time, and you’ll be a hero. I mean, please tell me you aren’t just learning Spanish vocabulary to pad the old noggin. You are planning on using this colorful and sexy language for thrilling exploits, ¿cierto?

_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with this word? Had you heard it before? How have you heard it used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 


6 responses to “Random word of the day: daltónico

  1. Sí, es muy común :) Otro sinónimo que poca gente conoce es “daltoniano”.

    Saludos :)


  2. Gracias por la información. Realmente no queda nada más que decir– ya hemos agotado este tema en toda su poca complejidad! Sigamos al siguiente…


  3. ¡Qué envidio tengo! ¿Español y portugués? Que suerte tienes.


  4. Nice blog. I am from Brazil thus I speak Portuguese. I am wondering why you decided to write the equivalent in Portuguese too. Just curious.


  5. Hi Fabio,

    Thanks for your kind words. The only reason I did so was because Helga is Brazilian, so she was clearly literally translating from Portuguese when she said the word in English. (That’s not how we say it) I only understood her because I had come across daltónico in Spanish at some point. I think it’s interesting that both languages give a respectful tip of the hat to the man–John Dalton– who first described color blindness, whereas English does not.


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