Some words can be different, even significantly so, in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms, even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognize specifically American usages. For example, Spanish mantequilla, aguacate and albaricoque (respectively, ‘butter’, ‘avocado’, ‘apricot’) correspond to manteca, palta, and damasco, respectively, in Argentina, Chile (except manteca), Paraguay, Peru (except manteca and damasco), and Uruguay. The everyday Spanish words coger (‘to take’), pisar (‘to step on’) and concha (‘seashell’) are considered extremely rude in parts of Latin America, where the meaning of coger and pisar is also ‘to have sex’ and concha means ‘vulva’. The Puerto Rican word for ‘bobby pin’ (pinche) is an obscenity in Mexico, but in Nicaragua it simply means ‘stingy’, and in Spain refers to a chef’s helper. Other examples include taco, which means ‘swearword’ (among other meanings) in Spain, ‘traffic jam’ in Chile and ‘heels’ (shoe) in Peru but is known to the rest of the world as a Mexican dish. Pija in many countries of Latin America and Spain itself is an obscene slang word for ‘penis’, while in Spain the word also signifies ‘posh girl’ or ‘snobby’. Coche, which means ‘car’ in Spain, central Mexico and Argentina, for the vast majority of Spanish-speakers actually means ‘baby-stroller’ or ‘pushchair’, while carro means ‘car’ in some Latin American countries and ‘cart’ in others, as well as in Spain. Papaya is the slang term for ‘vagina’ in parts of Cuba and Venezuela, where the fruit is instead called fruta bomba and lechosa, respectively.

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In Spain this language is generally called español (Spanish) when contrasting it with languages of other countries, such as French and English, but it is called castellano (Castilian, the language of the Castile region) when contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain, such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan.

Some philologists use Castilian only when speaking of the language spoken in Castile during the Middle Ages, stating that it is preferable to use Spanish for its modern form. The subdialect of Spanish spoken in northern parts of modern day Castile is also called Castilian sometimes, and differs from those of other regions of Spain, however the Castilian dialect is conventionally considered in Spain to be the same as standard Spanish.

The name castellano is widely used for the language in Latin America. Some Spanish speakers consider castellano a generic term with no political or ideological links, much as “Spanish” in English.


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