Saturday, February 8, 2014

Una paja por favor

Have you ever need to know how to ask for a straw in Spanish? Surprisingly, knowing how to say straw in Spanish can be more difficult than you might think.

I remember when I learned how to ask for a straw.  I considered this a victory and moved on.  Then I discovered there was more than one word for straw.  After that I discovered there were actually quite a few words for straw. 

Let's take a look at some of the words for how to say straw in Spanish:  Paja, pajita, caña, sorbete, cañita, pajilla, pitillo and popote.  

If you're wondering why there are so many words for straw, it's because they're all regional.  I'm not sure if there is a generally accepted word for straw, so if you have any suggestions feel free to leave a comment.

Let's revisit that list of translations for straw and I'll tell you what words are used in what country.  At least in general.

Catalunya (Spain) - caña
Rest of Spain - pajita
Argentina - pajita, sorbete
Peru- cañita, sorbete
Dominican Republic, Cuba - sorbete
Puerto Rico - sorbeto
El Salvador, Costa Rica - pajilla
Mexico - popote
Colombia, Venezuela - pitillo

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, those are just the words this gringo has heard of.  And the list comes with the additional disclaimer that it's based on my conversations, experience and opinion, so everyone may not agree with my list.  

I also want to point out that in certain parts of Spain a caña can also be a beer, so you really need to know your audience.

Now it's time to talk about the title of this post.

¿Una paja por favor?
A straw please?

Something as simple as asking for a paja can end up being a little embarrassing.  Yes, I know what you're thinking, how can asking for a straw be embarrassing? Let me explain.

It turns out paja has another not so innocent meaning.  And by not so innocent I mean vulgar.  It's also a way of referring to masturbation in some countries.  I won't go into detail on this blog, but you can read more about that here, on my blog about Swearing in Spanish.   If you're the paranoid type when you ask for a straw using the word paja you can clarify things by asking for a paja para beber.  Or you can simply avoid the word altogether by using pajita instead.

Let's get back to the real issue, straws.

For those of you who like pictures, here's a nice photo that also serves as a handy reference.  It was created by Veinte Mundos, which is a great (free) podcast site.  You should check it out.  

So what can you do to remember the right word at the right time?  My advice is to just learn the words the people you associate with use the most.  Beyond that you'll have to use good old-fashioned body language if you can't find the right word.

And that's it.  Now you're equipped with everything you need to know for how to say straw Spanish. 

Know any other words for straw or have some words of wisdom?  Leave your comments below!

¡Hasta la próxima!

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