This post is a follow-up to Is My Underwear Inside-Out or is it Backwards? and a direct result of conversations during and after I wrote that article.
This started as a simple post. In discussing the first post above, it came out that boca abajo’s translation to English is unclear.
So I began writing the post. And my simple, short, straight-forward post soon crumbled like a 30 year-old virgin’s resolve. I made the mistake of checking with a second person. From now on, forget it, I’m not verifying anything. Who cares if I end up writing things wrong. I want simplicity. Face it, I’m lazy.
The above photo started the mess.
In English, upside-down and face-down, somewhat obviously, have different terms to describe each position.
Spanish is not so straight-forward. Sometimes the same term is used for both, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes different terms are used for face-down, sometimes not. A simple inquiry I made to three people, a Spaniard, an Argentine and a Puerto Rican, resulted in 2 and a half different answers. Yeah, I said a half. It was that unclear.
Oh, and then throw in whether you refer to a person or an object. Apparently that makes a difference too.
Now my to attempt to unravel this, starting with Spanish from Spain (Castellano). Both terms, upside-down and face-down, may be described as boca abajo, which would then require further clarification to describe which of the two positions is meant.
Puerto Rico is (mostly) easier. Boca abajo refers only to lying face-down. Until it doesn’t. The DRAE throws in bocabajo as a separate word, with other meanings, specifically in Puerto Rico. Moving on. Upside-down, for a person’s position, in Puerto Rico would be estar de cabeza. You could also say patas arriba, which works in Argentina too, but not estar de cabeza. That means crazy or nuts in Argentina. Which is how I feel after attempting to unravel this mess. And to think, Spanish is supposedly one language. I only wanted to translate a couple words from English.
We move on to objects. Fortunately, life is (sorta) simple here. The drinking glass, for example, would be called boca abajo when placed upside-down on the shelf. You never have a glass lying face-down. The End. Except in Puerto Rico. The glass could be virado, meaning upside-down.
To summarize Upside-down in Spanish:
1. Upside-down is translated as estar de cabeza, boca abajo or patas arriba, when referring to people. When referring to an object it would be boca abajo or virado.
2. Lying face-down is translated as boca abajo.
3. Boca abajo is lying face-down or upside-down, depending on the circumstance.
4. Estar de cabeza may be upside-down or crazy.
5. Patas arriba is always upside-down.
Decúbito prono popped up in the conversation too. I don’t even want to know what that means. In 15 years of daily Spanish use, I lived my life without it until today. I’m not interested in starting now. Screw that.
Check out these other English Spanish articles.