I learned what little spanish I know in the Dominican Republic. This tends to mean that the spanish I do know is filled with slang and misuse. Because my spanish skills aren't great, I often stress about using words incorrectly in front of people who actually know what they are saying. My confusion was put to the test recently when I was walking a fellow PVC's dog. I was with my roommate and I told her to tell the dominicans we passed that the dog, Diego, was not guapo.
The following is the accepted translations of the word guapo.
1: handsome, good-looking, attractive
2: elegant, smart
3: familier: bold, dashing
Amanda: Just let them know that Diego isn't guapo. Just say, "No, esta guapo."
Michelle: But, guapo means handsome.
She may not have seen it, but my eyes were HUGE. My internal thoughts were going wild.
Amanda's internal mind: Guapo means handsome? Am I saying the wrong word? Am I using the word incorrectly? Have people been complimenting Diego all day and I just thought they were asking about his aggression? Why don't I speak spanish. What is this world coming too? She's probably right. You know what... roll with it and just find out later. It's not the right time to look like an idota in front of the roommate.
Amanda externally: Yeah. I don't know. Maybe it has two meanings...
Later I asked another PCV about dog culture.
Amanda, indesperation: Hey, Meagan, do Dominicans use guapo to mean angry?
Meagan, with a big smile: YES! They do. It's just a Dominican thing.
When others in the office agreed I felt pretty relieved. I had learned a word correctly, but now I know I am going to take this word home with me. I am going to call mean dogs everywhere "handsome" for years to come.