Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Idiomasyncracies: Ambition

This is something I was seriously lacking last week, ambition. In English that is. I tend to avoid using the word in Spanish because it just doesn’t translate.

In the American Heritage Dictionary, ambition is defined as: “An eager or strong desire to achieve something; The object or goal desired; A desire for exertion or activity.” That’s how I use the word, to express my degree of eagerness for an event or a wish.  My head cold zapped all my ambition last week and left me feeling rather worthless.

I think we English-speaking people are an ambitious bunch. We are goal oriented and like to discuss our desires and ambitions. We also tend to judge one another on our ambitions or lack of them. Isn’t the first question we ask a person we meet, “What do you do?” It seems that here in México people are more interested in where you come from than what you do. Maybe it is because so many of the people in this big city are from somewhere else and seem to have dabbled in several types of employment. Or maybe it's the kind of people I attract because of how I have lived. 

In the Velázquez Spanish-English Dictionary, ambition is defined as covetousness. Here in the Yucatán the word is used to express greed and avarice. If someone tells you how ambitious you are (¡Qué ambicioso eres!) that would be an insult. You’d have just been called a greedy bastard and might want to ask yourself, am I being ambicioso or am I simply ambitious?  Good luck explaining your way out of that one.  I recommend avoiding that conversational path. 


Merida Mikey said...

Wow! After living here almos 15 years now, I didn't know that! I think I'm taking that word out of my very limited Spanish vocabulary.

"Cerveza" and "baño" are still OK, right? If not, that will leave me with only a handful of words to use!

Linda Dorton said...

I think you are safe with
¿Cuanto cuesta una cerveza?
¿Otra cerveza, por favor!
¡¡Una más!!

¿Dónde está el baño?

Merida Mikey said...

Wow, Thanks! I'll sleep better tonight!