Ahora is a universal word in Spanish that means now. It is simple, easy to remember, extremely useful and one of the first words a Spanish learner picks up.
It would be so helpful if there also existed a universal word for right now. Alas, twas not to be. The words ahorita, ahora mismo and al tiro all cover the right now phrase. Leave a comment if you know any others.
Horita is not the same as ahorita
During my first months in Puerto Rico, I became extremely familiar with the word horita which I assumed to be the local pronunciation of ahorita. They are so close in sound and context, what else could it mean.
And then I almost fired someone because of this tiny horita/ahorita difference. Granted the individual involved had been pushing her luck for a while already. The “horita” incident only served as one more piece on top of the heap.
She had screwed something up, so when we passed in the hall I had sternly mentioned that we needed to sit down in my office. Her response: “Horita.” Which I took to mean she would be in my office in the next few minutes (as in ahorita).
Six hours later she gaily bounds in with a light “So what’s up?” Smoke shooting out both my ears, I barely controlled my voice to inquire what had happened. In the morning, I had asked her to come to my office for a conversation, and now six hours later she finally appeared.
-But I told you horita. She said.
-Right, so where’ve you been all day? I replied.
-Several meetings with clients, blah, blah, blah. She answered.
At this point I began to suspect that the now infamous horita did not mean the same to me and her. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and pushed off her company departure a short while longer.
Sure enough, it turned out to be nothing more than a language confusion. What I initially mistook to be her ignoring me was really a misunderstanding: “It seems that horita in this particular Spanish-speaking country (Puerto Rico) means in a while or a while later”.
On this particular day I narrowly avoided firing someone because of a typical Spanish word mix-up.
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Featured illustration: Al tiro | Illustration from the book Speaking Chileno: A Guide to Spanish from Chile