Of course, the Spanish version of the children’s classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is Si le das una galletita a un ratón. We all know how the story goes– if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw. When he’s finished he’ll ask for a napkin . . . and so on and so forth. Point being, it never ends. Forewarned is forearmed.
In my case and maybe yours as well, if you teach me one word in Spanish, I’m going to want to know all of its shades of meaning; sample sentences with context; its etymology; derivatives; synonyms; antonyms; homonyms; pajamanyms (I might have just made that up); varied usage depending on region, class, gender and education; notable uses in literature or pop culture; register and whatever other minutia I can think up. And then I’m going to want another word to nibble on. Woe to the Spanish speaker who tries to sneak a new word by me and then clams up, refusing to (or unable to) elaborate! I mean, we can still be friends, of course, but it’ll never go any further than that. No love for you.
Here, I’ll give you an example. It all started this morning when my coworker Anne taught me a new word she’d just learned: muñequera. Clearly deriving from muñeca (wrist), it can mean a wrist brace, a wrist splint or a wrist band like the kind tennis players wear. I already knew how to say brace, splint and band, but I was delighted to learn this ultra specific word. I love precision! I love exactness and economy! Oh, what the heck–I love words. Who knew?
And then . . . I wondered. If muñequera is a brace for your wrist . . . what about other joints? Other body parts? I considered. Rodillera, anyone? ¿Será? I consulted Google with bated breath and found:
And, I had a winner! Rodillera was totally legit. Apparently, they can also be used as knee pads or knee guards for sports. All right, on to my next set of joints. How about elbows? Let’s see; coderas?
Another slam dunk. I was two for two. Hmm, tobilleras?
Sure enough. Then I decided to get really crazy and search for one I just knew couldn’t exist: mentonera. I mean, come on. Drumroll please . . .
My mind was blown, and the day wasn’t even halfway over yet. Then I somehow accidentally cheated and saw collarín somewhere.
A cervical collar or neck cuff. Cuellera also exists. Well, I was on a roll, so I figured that with my luck, hombrera must have existed as well.
In a beautiful state of bliss, I then went to town, thinking of every single body part I could and trying to see if I could concoct a word for a brace there. Yes, every body part. Cumbambera? Nalgera? It might have happened. Here are a few of the other words for braces/pads/related support that I found:
talonera (talón – heel) (heel pad, heel support)
espaldera (espalda – back) (back brace/motorcycle back protector/garden trellis/gym wall bars)
canilleras/espinilleras (canillas/espinillas– shins) (shin guards!)
pantorrilleras (pantorrillas – calves) (calf compression sleeves)
bracera (brazo – arm) (arm brace)
inglera (ingle – groin) (groin protector)
muslera (muslo – thigh) (thigh brace, thigh compression sleeve)
braguero (braga – boxers, underwear) (jock strap–wow, I just know that I am going to have to say that one day in a sports medicine session)
And now for some words that have nothing to do with braces or splints but that are constructed along the same lines. I already knew some of them.
ombliguera (ombligo – belly button) (belly shirt)
riñonera (riñón – kidney) (fanny pack–eww, such a repulsive word. I have always hated it.)
naricera/bigotera (nariz – nose, bigote – mustache) (nasal specs)
naricera (nariz – nose) (nose clips for swimmers)
bigotera (bigote – mustache) (bow compass)
orejera (oreja – ear) (headphones/ear muffs!)
pechera (pecho – chest) (bib/breastplate/dickey/chest harness/vest)
narizera (nariz – nose) (nose guard for motorcycles) (nose guard)
nuquera (nuca – nape of the neck) (neck pillow)
(Several hours later . . . ) Whew! I’m exhausted. Well, that’s what happens when you give a ratoncita a word. Nothing’s wasted on me. I absolutely adore lists and categories that help me organize all the words and make some sense and order out of them. And I love to be exhaustive, hence the exhaustion. I mean, if I learn one word, I might as well learn all of them. For better or for worse, I’m kind of an all or nothing person.
Do you do this too? Get intrigued by a word and then go down a rabbit hole (una madriguera) and not come up for air until several hours later? What have been some of your more interesting language excursions of late? Don’t leave me in the dark. Or are you perfectly content to just learn one word at a time as if each word were an island? How do you organize it all in your mind?