Sometimes when I teach my Spanish classes, students will ask me how to swear in Spanish. They express disappointment when I inform them that I will not teach them how to swear in Spanish. However, whenever I ask who knows how to swear in Spanish, at least half of the students always raise their hands. “If you want to learn how to swear in Spanish, see these students after class,” I tell the inquisitive student.
Occasionally, students will ask me about certain words they heard someone saying, but then couldn’t find in their English-Spanish dictionary for some strange reason. These words are invariably profanities. The word “güey” is a common topic in class because some Mexicans use it so often–so frequently, that students think that it’s okay to use it in any context. However, under the wrong circumstances, “güey” is an insult that could result in physical abuse to the speaker. Literally, “güey” means ox. That doesn’t really sound so insulting, does it? In Mexico, “güey” has been used as an insult for so long, that it no longer even refers to an ox. To put it in perspective, think of the word that refers to the female dog: “bitch.” That word has become so offensive that I would never call any self-respecting female dog a bitch. It’s that bad! So, remember: “güey” has the same negative connotations as “bitch.”
A few years back, the Mexican restaurant Chi Chi’s had a radio commercial with the following dialogue: “No way!” “Yes way!” “No way!” “Yes way!” And when the commercial was over, the announcer said, “By the way, never say way to a Mexican.” But I’m sure he really meant, “By the way, never say “güey” to a Mexican.” I think that’s good advice everyone should follow!