Spanish words for pussy

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Jun 23 23:48:43 UTC 1999

Well, Ron, the error is hardly a big one. My guess is that learning from
native speakers (rather than from pitiful courses) will usually, especially
in such matters as those we speak of here, guide you in the right

As for your French cat problem, you've got the wrong man. Doubtless a
francophile list-reader will come to our aid.

While we are speaking of diminutives, I recall the strength of the notion
of "professional association" in Polish (and, generally speakeing, other
Slavic) diminutives. For example, if you were a customer and ordered a
beer, you would ask for a "piwo." But, when the waiter appeared (even if
carrying a gigantic beer), it would doubtless be presented as a "piwko" (a
beer+diminutive). Mexican Spanish is not exactly like that. Even the
customer could ask (at least in fairly friendly or solidary circumstances)
for a "cervasita" (beer+diminutive), but the ubiquity of diminution in
Mexican Spanish is well known. If you asked for a "little beer" in Polish
(except in the most solidary situations), you would get one - literally (or
get explained to you that little beers were not served there).


PS: I've been very circumspect in this posting, assuming that your subject
line will attract more readers than any other message sent today (or for
quite some time). I was reminded lately that an earlier excahnge of ours
was roundly misinterpreted, and I don't want people, to think I liike you
any less than I really do.

>I see now the error of my ways. This is what happens when one learns a
>language form trying to converse with native speakers in a real-language
>setting, rather than taking a class in college.
>One afternoon while I was living in Guadalajara, Jalisco, 20+ years ago, two
>men appeared at my door one afternoon when my Spanish-fluent boyfriend was
>not around to handle the situation. They asked if they could borrow "una
>gata." Well, my Spanish wasn't what I would have liked it to be, but I did go
>and get Pussy and hold her up questioningly. They laughed wholesomely, then
>said, "No quero una gatita, quero una gata de coche" or something like that
>("una gata por mi coche? --para mi coche?" NEVER DID figure out the
>difference between POR and PARA).
>I assumed at that point that GATITA was like PERITA--that that was the way
>that one identified a female cat as opposed to a tomcat.Of course, I never
>had occasion to say GATA "pussy"--after all, why would the sex of a kitty be
>important to me?
>When I was studying French in college, I was told that LRE CHAT and LA CHAT
>were quite different--but that LA CHAT was not a female cat. I was told to
>beware of saying LA CHAT. Was this a piece of knowledge that was equally
>*****in reply to:
>Dennis writes:
>Si Senhor, you are right about Michigan sexuality (done with guns mostly,
>usually as part of a militia group).
>But the diminutive (gatita) is not necessary to indicate that a cat is
>female ("una gata," sin "-ita," will do). You are right that "una gata" may
>also be a car jack. Just a little friendly homophony. (Unless you're one of
>those homonophobes!)

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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