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Tevye's avatar

A question for a native Spanish speaker.

Asked by Tevye (31 points ) June 24th, 2012

I was at a restaurant and the waitress, who was Hispanic, asked me how the food was. I replied, “sabrosa”, and she began cackling like a bruja. She then informed me not to use that word as it has a deeply sexual connotation. However, I could have sworn that I was taught that sabrosa was just another way to say delicious (in reference to food) in Spanish. I asked my old Spanish teacher, who is Chilean, about it. He said that my usage was right and hers was wrong. I also asked a friend of mine who is Mexican. She said that what I said made sense since I was in a restaurant and talking about food and not “at a bar, talking about a half-naked girl.” She seemed to think it was pretty stupid that the waitress took it the way she did. Well, I told the waitress (who is Cuban) about what they said, and she said they were just being polite, and that sabrosa will always be taken sexually. She told me to just say delicioso.

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32 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

While I’m not a native Spanish speaker I have a few Hispanic friends. The consensus among them is that while you are technically correct with this usage of “sabrosa”, Spanish is different everywhere you go. It has many different dialects and cultures. In one place sabrosa will have a sexual connotation while in another it is perfectly acceptable. The only way to get an accurate assessment for where you are is to ask other people besides just this one waitress.

Either way, I’ve always used delicioso or Que Rica instead of sabrosa.

JLeslie's avatar

I am not a native speaker, but my husband’s Mexican family never uses sabrosa for food. I use deliciosa or rica/ricisima also.

Here is a link with some info.

You would probably have to ask another Cuban if sabrosa is always used in a sexual way. I lived in FL for years, and for some reason I am not sure if Cubans always use sabrosa with a sexual meaning or not?

I use torta for cake, except around Mexicans who use torta for sandwich. I think Mexico is the only country that does. There are lots of examples like this.

An English example would be using fag for cigarette in England, while in the US it is considered a slur for gay people.

Don’t feel bad about it, native Spanish speakers make these “mistakes” while speaking to people from other Spanish speaking countries. It isn’t a big deal.

Yeahright's avatar

You were right, and your teacher and friends are right. The waitress is wrong. Sabrosa, rica and deliciosa in the context of food mean that the food was good. And all three mean sexy/hot in a sexual context. You were in a restaurant not in a strippers’ club.

Although lexicon varies amongst Spanish speaking countries, everyone knows standard Spanish—well if you are educated that is. The less educated you are, the more inclined you are to limit the meaning of words to the country you come from. If you say hot in English and the context is food, then you would interpret it as the food’s temperature was high. Whereas, if you were in a bar, you could think of hot as sexy if referring to a person. Context makes all the difference.

JLeslie's avatar

So I asked my husband. His first language is Soanish, born and raised in Mexico City. He said he would never use sabrosa for sexy, and would usually only use it for food. When I asked him why I never hear him use it to describe food he said, “bring some food that is, and I will.” That’s his sarcasm. He actually usually says my food is delicious, in English, and made con cariño. But I digress.

I agree with @Yeahright that education level can mean someone has a very narrow use for various words, and also if they are American born Spanish speakers their usage might be narrower as they would typically only use what the family and immediate commu ity uses, and not actually be educated in Spanish, so the extent of their vocabulary would be more limited, and they would mostly read in English since they are raised in an Enlish speaking country. Plus, I still stick with deoending on the country, they may only use certain words.

Like in my Mexican side of the family doesn’t use brava for angry, because for them that is only used for animals, they would also use enojada, but many countries use brava. Similiar to the US some parts of the country and higher social classes would use angry no mad. Mad is more like a crazy angry, and also used to describe a mad dog, and so not favorably used for human beings. But most of America uses the words mad and angry interchangeably.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie Yes. All your views are spot on. And vocabulary selection and usage varies from country to country. Both in Spanish and English. Like in one of the threads here, @ucme mentioned the word shandy —which is a drink that’s popular in the UK— and @gailcalled asked him what that was. So there you have it, two people who are native speakers of English and yet that was a new word for @gailcalled. But back to the OP’s case, the point is the waitress comment was totally uncalled for because sabrosa is an appropriate word for food—unless she was trying to be funny or flirty or whatever. Imagine the opposite case. Imagine you are in a foreign country and you say something along the lines of this food is hot and the waitress tells you not to say hot because that word has a sexual connotation. Well first and foremost that word means having a high degree of heat . Now if you are using slang then it can mean something else you want it to mean but that’s not what the word originally means. The same applies to sabrosa.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright In the her circles the waitress might be correct that the word is only used that way. As I pointed out above when I used torta for cake my husband’s family broke into laughter. Someone who grew up only around Mexicans may have no clue it means cake in other countries. Some words people are more likely to know than others the mulitple meanings. I seem to be more flexible than my husband’s family in adapting to whichever country I am talking to. I feel less that my way is right, and more like there is simply a variety of words used in different regions. I feel that way both English and Spanish. I use the “language” of my audience, his family doesn’t.

My husband and I were once in a Mexican restaurant and a waitress corrected my husband when he ordered a meal. I wish I could remember what it was. We still laugh about it. She was probably from another region in Mexico or maybe American born, not sure.

I don’t think it is bad the waitress corrected him, if she had been right. I guess most people don’t like being corrected, but I don’t mind. If I am having trouble pronouncing something I like when the waiter says it for me, so I can learn, etc.

Haleth's avatar

Slang is different in different places. I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but there are plenty of examples in English. Like, in the US, pissed means “angry.” But in the UK, it means “drunk.”

Sexual slang especially can vary from place to place. Your friends and the waitress are probably all right, according to their own home cultures.

JLeslie's avatar

@Haleth Oh interesting. Actually, back in the day people used to use piss drunk, to mean very drunk here in the US, but I never hear it used anymore.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie Well, as I said before, it boils down to the level of education we are talking about. Mexico is a big country and I’m sure a lot of Mexicans know that torta according to the dictionary means cake, even if that’s not the word they use to refer to a cake. (I’m not implying your husband’s family is uneducated, I’m sure they thought your using of torta was cute and funny and that’s why they burst into laughter.) I do think though that it was bad and very rude of the waitress to have corrected him and very narrow-mindedly of her to assume that the meaning of sabrosa is only that of the village she comes from and totally disregarding the actual meaning of the word. Helping with pronunciation is one thing, and trying to force slang or local words onto a customer is totally out of the question.

Tevye's avatar

Interesting discussion, guys. And just so everyone knows, the waitress is from Havana, and lived there for many years.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright But, if she, the waitress, is ignorant about the word, to her it is not slang. My husband’s family is sort of uneducated. It is tricky because his parents have 5th and 8th grade educations, but they were fairly wealthy, so they were up in the social classes. His brother never finished high school, but has tavelled extensively because of their weath in the past. His sister only did a semester of college, but also did a semester at finishing school in Switzerland. My husband has his undergrad and grad degress from an American University. So, when it comes to his family it is a mix and you never know for sure where their langauge rules are exactly coming from. Like my SIL says the rule in Spanish is to pronounce a word according to the Spanish Language. So she pronounces Cartier car-tee-err. In English we usually honor the original language especially if it is a name. My husband says she is wrong, that isn’t a Spanish rule. I have no idea who is right.

Yeahright's avatar

@Tevye The point is she was wrong and she caused you to doubt yourself when to begin with you were right from the start. That’s what gets to me. You were right, she was wrong.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie Your SIL is right. That’s an old rule that is only used in Spain but not in Latin America.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright But, maybe when he is in Miami, best to not use Sabrosa that way? I don’t know, we need a Cuban to verify. I can go on facebook and find out. Goodness knows I have access to a bunch of Cubans on there. Or, the waitress could just be an idiot.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright And, I guess the rule is used in Mexico, or at least parts of MX.

Yeahright's avatar

Well, no Cuban is going to impose on me the wrong use of the language that’s for sure! Or anyone else for that matter. I just said Cuban because the waitress is the person we are talking about.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright But, if you know Cubans don’t use Sabrosa to describe food (again I have no real idea if that is the case) and that they use it only in the sexy context, then when with them wouldn’t you choose a different word? Or, you are just going to say they are wrong and not conform when in Rome so to speak?

Yeahright's avatar

I would use a different word if I am in Cuba. But then again they would know I was a foreigner. But if I am in Miami or elsewhere I would use proper Spanish, and sabrosa is proper Spanish according to the dictionary.

Tevye's avatar

That’s funny. La camarera told me that delicioso is the most “academic” word to use.

Yeahright's avatar

Deliciosa is a great word for that, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say is academic. It’s probably a fancy word if nothing else. Sabrosa is literally savoury. Full of flavor.

JLeslie's avatar

Miami is Cuba. LOL.

Yeahright's avatar

Not really. Not all Spanish speakers there talk “cuban like” just because there are a lot of Cubans there.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright I know, but it is very Cuban still. Depends on what area of Miami. Now we are just splitting hairs. I lived in South FL for years and the majority of my Latin American friends were Venezuelan and Colombian.

Where do you live?

You seem to be annoyed at the idea of adjusting your vocabulary based on who you are with. Maybe I am misreading you?

Yeahright's avatar

Barbados.

mcbealer's avatar

La comida esta sabrosa! is mighty superlative, and no true Cuban should be fined for associating the word sabrosa with gettin’ jiggy wit it; after all, Celia Cruz poplularized an entire genre out of that word alone. (salsa)

That being said, no major faux pas on your part, although La comida esta muy rica/deliciosa! would be a handy phrase to learn. ‘nuff said.

Yeahright's avatar

@mcbealer Not trying to dispute what you are saying in an I know more than everyone else kind of way, but mind you deliciosa is more of a superlative than sabrosa. Rica is on the same level as sabrosa. And yes, as I said before, the three of them can be used with a sexual connotation given the context, the tone, the situation, etc. And he was certainly praising the food not the waitress!

I use the three of them equally and I’m a native speaker :)

P.S.: I just noticed the links direct you to the main DRAE page and not to separate entries, but you can look up each word if you want.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s like comparing beautiful, pretty, and gorgeous. For me gorgeous is the ultimate in jaw dropping, can’t take my eyes off her. For others beautiful is the word that conveys it most. It just has to do with what corner of the world you are from what sounds more exaggerated to your ear, and what is commonly used around you. You can’t always be objective from a dictionary stance, you have to go by general usage also.

Yeahright's avatar

Well, to resolve certain matters of meaning, usage is not the way to go because usage is very subjective, and the only valid point of reference to determine certain lexical aspects is the dictionary. That’s what dictionaries are for, to state precise meaning and reduce ambiguity. Nonetheless, I was referring to both usage and dictionary. Deliciosa is more intense than sabrosa. No doubt about it. I will however ask in another forum and get back to you on it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright The dictionary tends to change with usage. Look at the word antisemitic. Semetic means from characteristics from the middle east both Arab and Jewish, but antisemetic is used almost exclusively as anti Jewish.

I am curious to see what your other forum says. To me sabrosa sounds more superlative. I think of it as extremely flavorful and would not use it to describe sweets, but really the two words are very similar to me. Delicioso I would use for any type of food. But, as I said above I don’t really use the word sabrosa typically. I might be going more from my English backround for how I hear the words.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie The dictionary tends to change with usage. Yes, but nonetheless, we need to have a point of reference, other ways teachers wouldn’t have a valid criteria to teach and correct and people would be saying n’importe quoi and all would be OK.

I am curious to see what your other forum says. Me too.

…but really the two words are very similar to me. To you and to everybody else because they are synonyms; but let’s not stray from the point in question which is which one is more superlative than the other for native speakers.

…I might be going more from my English backround for how I hear the words. Of course. No matter how much you know a foreign language, you can never get the feeling that native speakers get.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright Is Spanish your first langauge? You live in an English speaking country I see, were you raised there?

Now I need to ask my husband which he finds more intense a descriptive word between the two.

JLeslie's avatar

My husband says all three are the same to him. His mom or sister might feel differently though. Sometimes women are more aware or focused on the distinction of words with similar meanings.

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