Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The power of suffixes can sure make a difference

El Viejo  vs  El Viejito

One of the beautiful things about the Spanish language is the power of suffixes. Just a simple change to a word's ending can bring on an entirely different connotation. Take the word "viejo" for example. By all means it is a negative word. Even as children, many of us were told that if we didn't behave, "va a venir el viejo". As adults, we use the word to refer to an annoying, rude man whom we probably don't think very highly of. Now, let's see what a suffix can do. By dropping the "o" and adding "ito", we have magically transformed the ogre-like "viejo" into the almost-universally-liked "viejito". Not only did we manage to age the subject but in the process, humanized and even ennobled him. Wheres one illicits a warning "cuidado con el viejo", the other evokes our sympathy "cuidado con el viejito" (no lo vayas a machucar).

The same is true for the word using the female gender. A "vieja" is a mean-spirited, and maybe even vulgar trouble maker. On the other hand, a "viejita" is an older woman whom we respect and whose words we usually consider to have at least a hint of wisdom. Yes, the power of suffixes has the power to transform. Next time you want to cook out, do you say "voy a hacer una carne" or "voy a hacer una carnita"??

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