Munchkins, pañaleras y hasta más – Medical Spanish 1/2

I frequently toy with the idea of starting a separate blog just for medical Spanish, pues, that’s the area of Spanish where I spend the vast majority of my time these days. I like the idea of sharing words I come across while interpreting, both words that patients use and English words whose translation I’m not certain of. I also get a lot of visits to this blog from people searching for something like an assessment of Spanish fluency for the medical field. It’s certainly not even close to enough to just know all the body parts, symptoms, and diseases– I have the most unexpected words and topics come up on a daily basis. There are also so many different ways to say certain things, and I love to keep and share organized lists to try to keep track of all the nuances. It’s fascinating to me. So, I’m going to do that soon. This post will be somewhat of a trial run, then.

I’ll probably just share one word at a time– I feel like vocabulary is best learned in small sips. That way, you can really savor it. Gulping down vocab can be exhilarating, but in my experience, it rarely sticks. Today, though, I’ll share all the words I wrote down today while working. Some were new to me, some were words or phrases I felt I probably could have translated more naturally or idiomatically, and others were just interesting or cool.

How’s the munchkin? – The nurse was chatting with the patient, who had just had a baby. She was doing fine with the basic questions and didn’t need me until the nurse asked, “How’s the munchkin?” That’s when she drew a blank, turned to me, and had me interpret for the rest of the appointment. Munchkin— haha, what a funny word. I definitely did not rack my brain to try to find the “right” translation for it. I knew it wouldn’t be there, nor did it matter. Was it truly necessary to explain to this woman the offhand reference to singing, dancing dwarfs from The Wizard of Oz? Of course not. (I didn’t even know until now that the word Munchkin was invented by the author of the book, Frank L. Baum.) I also associate them with doughnut holes thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts. I just said, ¿Cómo está su bebecito? Surely nene or chiquillo would have worked just as well. Any other suggestions?

Glucola – The name of the sweetened drink for the oral glucose tolerance test used to screen for gestational diabetes.

Incubadora – incubator

Pañalera – diaper bag (but can also be a diaper store [that also has related accessories], or a diaper changing pad) (In case you didn’t know, diaper = pañal)

I love the idea of little diaper stores! Look how cute they are. I would totally move back to Latin America in a heartbeat just to have a neighborhood pañalera to patronize one day. 

I’d just love to know how native Spanish speakers pronounce “Huggies.”

Isn’t it adorable? I miss all the little specialty stores in Latin America. The big-box stores just don’t have any charm to them.

A pañalera servicio a domicilio! What’s not to love?

Tosco, rústico – Rough, coarse. A mom used these words to describe socks that her infant son had worn that had given him a blister, contrasting them with other softer pairs that he wears. I probably would have said áspero, but I’m glad to know that these words are used as well. Before, I mainly associated tosco with a coarse, vulgar type of person, and rústico more with simple, handmade furniture. (I remember going to store after tiny store of muebles rústicos with my mom in Bogotá, looking for furniture for my apartment.) Now that I’ve looked into it a little more, I also see burdo and basto for rough in regards to material/fabric. Native speakers? What say you?

To slough off Desprenderse, descamar/se

To step aside (figuratively) – Hacerse a un lado, dar un paso al costado

If you have any better suggestions or corrections, please let me know! Don’t be shy. There’s almost always a better way to say something, and I love learning from people, not books or dictionaries.

So, what did you learn today? Don’t hog the knowledge and keep it all to yourself; share with us! The whole point of learning a language, after all, is to have an intercambio and dialogue. ¿O no?


14 responses to “Munchkins, pañaleras y hasta más – Medical Spanish 1/2

  1. I learnt that ‘Me gusta la carne y el pescado’ is another way of saying someone is bisexual after my family burst out laughing when my Kiwi friend announced this with his limited Spanish at our Christmas Eve dinner.


  2. —>”Was it truly necessary to explain to this woman the offhand reference to singing, dancing dwarfs from The Wizard of Oz?”

    Haha, this is hilarious.

    Glucola: Qué interesante, acá se dice “glucosa”.

    Incubadora – incubator. Sí, no conozco otra palabra para referirme a eso.

    Pañalera – diaper bag. Sí, lo mismo acá. Hace poco aprendí la palabra “diaper” hablando con un estadounidense por Skype. Ya conocía “nappy”. Mi obesión con el ingles británico, ya sé. :)

    —>”I’d just love to know how native Spanish speakers pronounce “Huggies.”

    Eh…”Jaguis”. =P

    —>”I probably would have said áspero, but I’m glad to know that these words are used as well. Before, I mainly associated tosco with a coarse, vulgar type of person, and rústico more with simple, handmade furniture.”

    Estoy de acuerdo con vos en todo. “Áspero” me suena mejor.

    To slough off – Desprenderse, descamar/se. Sí, “descamarse” es un poquito técnico, pero se entiende y se usa. También se puede decir “caerse la piel”, que es más neutral/informal.

    To step aside (figuratively) – Hacerse a un lado, dar un paso al costado. Sip :)

    ¿Qué aprendí hoy?

    En inglés, puff. Muchas expresiones. Mi favorita: “not by a long shot”.

    En español, la palabra “halagüeño”, usada con la segunda acepción que da este sitio:

    Probablemente vos ya la sabías y yo no. =p

    Tu entrada me encantó y me pareció muy tierna, especialmente porque falta poco para que sea tío de mi primer sobrina. :)



    • —>”Was it truly necessary to explain to this woman the offhand reference to singing, dancing dwarfs from The Wizard of Oz?”
      — Haha, this is hilarious.
      Lo que pasa es que, aunque vos no lo creas, soy una persona extraordinariamente chistosa. Pero vos lo has sabido desde un principio, pues sos muy perspicaz. Gracias por siempre reírte de mis chistes ;)

      No, no, glucola no es glucosa. Glucosa es glucosa, en eso estamos totalmente de acuerdo. La glucola se trata de una especie de bebida dulce para comprobar el nivel de glucosa en la sangre para ver cómo se metaboliza. Sí, sí, mucho más de lo que querías saber, ya lo sé :)

      Sí, ya me imaginé que descamar era un poco técnico, así que gracias por confirmármelo. Me fascina la relación entre esa palabra y escamas.

      Not by a long shot. Muy útil. ¿Cómo se diría en español? Lo primero que se me ocurre (vamos, lo único) es ni por lejos.

      Fijate, desconocía esa acepción de halagüeño. ¿Cómo fue que la aprendiste? Entonces, por lo de la diéresis, se pronuncia halaGWeño? ¡Qué feo! Hmm, no pienso decir nunca esa palabra. Ojalá jamás me toque.

      ¡Felicidades por tu sobrina que está por nacer! Serás un gran tío. Sí, soy muy tierna, pues la ternura es algo que valoro mucho en las personas.


      • Ah, qué interesante. “Glucola”. Capaz que me sirva saberla para la universidad. Gracias por aclararlo. ^^

        Sí, “ni por lejos” sería una muy buena traducción. No me había puesto a pensar cómo lo diría en español.

        ¿Halagüeño? La escuché en una novela argentina que están pasando por la tele. La dijo un personaje que usa un lenguaje muy formal. Generalmente no usa muchas palabras nuevas para mí, pero me sorprendió con “halagüeño”. Jaja, sí, “halaGWeño”. :P Tenés razón, no suena muy bien.

        ¡Saludos y espero más de estas entradas!


  3. “I’ll probably just share one word at a time– I feel like vocabulary is best learned in small sips. That way, you can really savor it. Gulping down vocab can be exhilarating, but in my experience, it rarely sticks.”

    This bit attracted my attention. Do you have any tips based on what works best for you in that respect? Maybe I do it the wrong way by preparing large lists of vocab items culled from press articles etc and that’s why I feel slightly overwhelmed by how much there is to learn? On the other hand my level of Spanish (and Italian) is much lower then yours which means that I have much more rather basic words that I really SHOULD learn. Plus, of course, I never lived in a country where these languages are spoken natively :)

    By the way, I’m not sure if I’ve already wrote you so, but I learn stuff from your blog too, if not Spanish then English :)


    • I cannot deny that I learned so much just by living in Colombia. However, I don’t think that that in and of itself is magic because MANY people live in other countries for several years and their Spanish (or whatever language) still sucks. So, I think it was my determination that made the difference. I wasn’t even very social. And I listen A LOT. And write everything down. And just echo what I hear. I read for pleasure, but I personally do not consider reading very useful for learning vocabulary. I know it helps some people, but not me. I have to hear it. Speak and listen, speak and listen. That’s the best advice I can give.

      But don’t be too impressed– you probably overrate my Spanish. It’s good, but not great. Trust me, I still have a long, long, LONG way to go.

      I’m glad I’m teaching you some new tricks in English, too :)


  4. Yeah, I realize that living a country where a language is spoken natively is not magic trick for proficiency. Still, it makes things easier, plus you’ve got natives at hand who can teach you things :). As to the speak and listen thing; I mostly read and write ;)


    • You get good at what you do. Read and write a lot, and surely you’ll get good at that. Especially reading, since it’s passive. You can probably recognize much more than you can recall. If you want to be able to speak and listen well, I can’t see how all the reading and writing in the world will get you anywhere. Unfortunately :(

      But, hey, it’s fun to meet and interact with new people! Get out of yourself!


  5. Anyway, my question was about vocab learning or more precisely about the fact that you don’t advise learning large portions a time. The rest was just ramble on my part.


    • I don’t really advise anything, per se. Any and everything I say should be taken with a very large grain of salt. I just know what has and hasn’t worked for me so far :)


  6. “Get out of yourself!”
    What does it mean?


  7. “How’s the munchkin?”

    I think I was wielded out in a similar way when I learned you could call a baby a “criatura.” ;)


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