Saturday, June 20, 2009

When is later right away?

There's an odd contradiction in the definition of the Spanish word luego which is usually translated as later or afterwards and these are probably the most common usage you'd find in written Spanish.

Oddly enough that's only the secondary definition of the word. It's primary definition is just the opposite soon.

Odd also because in spoken Spanish you hear the expression luego luego very frequently when some is giving directions and that sounded strange to my ears.

For instance, "Go two blocks, turn right and it's luego luego the second door on the left." That is, "Go two blocks, turn right and it's right there the second door on the left."

Or "You get there luego luego going down 1st Ave and then turning left." That is, "You get there right away going down 1st Ave and then turning left."

Go figure!


  1. Barry,
    I enjoy your discussions about the subtleties of language. I was once in a Spanish class in Mazatlan, all female instructors, and was told to form a sentence using, "ella es." I said, "Ella es rica." Everybody blushed saying, "No, no, no, you can't say that!" Or is it "esta rica" I'm not suppoed to say? I don't know; by that time I was flustered and confused. I thought rico/rica meant "rich/wealthy" but apparently it also means something else...

  2. Ella es rica probably does mean she is rich.

    Ella esta rica probably translates the same, but has a sexual double meaning she's good in bed.

  3. "luego" is very subjective, the same as "ahorita", which doesn't necessary means right away. When getting used to Mexico I would recommend stating any timeline in clear almost scientific units to avoid confusion, ex. 2 meters, 30 minutes, 10 steps, etc.

    "rico/a" can mean rich as in "rich in nutrients", wealthy as in "Bill Gates..." and delicious as in "Mexican food...", but in street talk can be used to refer to a person, usually a woman, with good looks. I find the later a bit tacky though, kind of reggeaton style talk. Actually, you can also use the word rico to describe something that feels good, as a soft cushion or warm weather or a hot bath.