Apodos or nicknames in the Latino culture are often misunderstood by outsiders. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

SpanglishBaby: Understanding how and why apodos (nicknames) are used in Latino culture

Although certainly not unique to the Latino culture, los apodos, or nicknames, are ubiquitous in Spanish-speaking countries whether it be on the playground, within families, or of course, in professional sports. These clever and silly names are an inherent part of Latino culture, yet usually misunderstood by outsiders and miscategorized as offensive.

As the definition states, los apodos are oftentimes taken from a particular physical characteristic. The first time I heard someone being called “Gorda,” I was completely taken aback and my eyes shifted around the conversation, expecting an awkward silence from the offended party. Instead we carried on talking, and I filed away my questions for later.

In Spain, I asked my host-mom why they called her “Gorda,” when she was actually very slim. “Oh, están bromeando… me lo dicen con cariño,” and she brushed it off. I wasn’t convinced and silently vowed that no one would ever call me gorda no matter how much “love” was added. But was she really OK with the name?

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