Terms of Endearment
I remember my Argentinian teacher of Spanish back in Melbourne telling me that Colombians are muy cariñoso. Meaning they are warm and cutesy, especially when it comes to describing things.
Colombians will often go overboard on the cutesy-fying by adding -cita/o or -ica/o or ita/o to the end of any word. A cute cat is not a gato, it is a gatico. To describe something soft they will say suavecita not suave. You don’t just have a juice because your jugo becomes jugito. Adding these suffixes becomes a gentle way of describing things and actions. It’s quite adorable and I have been guilty of using multiple cutesy suffixes in one sentence for example in reference to seeing a new lamb with the flock of sheep that walked past my office window daily I exclaimed “Ooooh! Es un bebecito corderito“ rather than simply saying “Ooooh! Es un cordero.”
Another type of diminutive is mami and papi. The Spanish equivalent of mum and dad is mama y papa and so when we say mummy and daddy they say mami y papi. Easy enough to figure out, right? That is except for the fact that mami and papi are also general adorable descriptions for anyone. Parents will call their daughter mami and their son papi. Grandparents will call their grandchildren mami or papi. People will call their partners mami or papi. And complete strangers like bus drivers and shop owners will call you mami or papi. It’s quite confusing and there is no parental relationship required for the moniker.
For example, on the bus the other day I climbed into the front seat (always my favourite place to sit in Santa Marta’s dilapidated mini vans that swerve down the streets with the side sliding door jammed permanently open) the driver said to me “Shut the door well mami“. Had I been fresher off the plane, I think I would have been slightly offended by this, but now the indiscriminate use of mami and papi is nothing to bat an eyelid at.
It should also be noted that mami is far more respectful than mamacita, something that is more of a phoar or catcall in the street and something I haughtily turn my nose up at.
Whilst it’s not solely Colombians who use diminutives, they certainly take it to a whole other level in comparison to other latinos.
So rather than signing off with chau, or bye, I will say chauito.
What are your favourite Spanish diminutives?
PS Partway through drafting this post, la suegra used tareaitas (little homework) when speaking to D about having to do his homework. I’d never heard that one before!