Embarazada (Spanish pronunciation: [embaɾaˈθaða]) is the Spanish word for pregnant. It is a false friend for native English-speaking students of Spanish who may attempt to say "I'm embarrassed" by saying "estoy embarazada". This phrase actually means "I'm pregnant" in Spanish. This may be confusing to Spanish speakers who are not familiar with the English word, even more so when said by a man.
When Parker Pen entered the Mexican market, its advertisements which claimed that Parker Pens "won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you" was mistranslated to "No te embarazará chorreándose en tu bolsillo", which means "Won't leak in your pocket and impregnate you".
The correct way to say "I'm embarrassed" in Spanish is using the phrase tengo vergüenza (meaning "I have shame") or the more formal phrases me da vergüenza or estoy avergonzado. Yet, in Spanish, there also exists the adjective embarazoso, meaning the same as "embarrassing" in its denotation of something that causes a sensation of unease, but not of shame. Complicating the issue further, embarazada can sometimes also mean "hampered", or "hindered". This more closely mirrors the original meaning of the English word embarrass.
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Embarazada is a past participle, meaning that it indicates a state resulting from a previous action. In English, past participles usually end in -ed (e.g., destroyed), and embarazado therefore translates directly into English as "impregnated". It is a conjugated form of embarazar "to impregnate". As the word embarazado is masculine, it is rarely encountered in Spanish. It is more common for the word embarazada to be used to describe pregnancy. However, embarazado can be used as a past participle in perfect tenses, as in: "Javier ha embarazado a María." (Javier has impregnated María.)
The English word embarrassed is indirectly derived from the Spanish word. The first recorded usage of embarrass in English was in 1664 by Samuel Pepys in his diary. The word was derived from the French word embarrasser, "to block" or "to obstruct", or figuratively, "to put one in a difficult situation". The first recorded usage was by Michel de Montaigne in 1580. The French word was derived from the Spanish embarazar, whose first recorded usage was in 1460 in Cancionero de Stúñiga (Songbook of Stúñiga) by Álvaro de Luna.
The Spanish word likely comes from the Portuguese embaraçar (used in the same context of English embarrassment), which probably is a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in- for "in-") with baraça "a noose", or "rope", which makes sense with the synonym encinta ("on noose, on rope" because of the old usage of women to wear a strap of cloth on their dresses when pregnant). Baraça originated before the Romans began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BCE. Thus, baraça could be related to the Celtic word barr, "tuft". (Celtic people actually settled much of Spain and Portugal beginning in the 700s BCE, the second group of Indo-European language speakers to do so.) However, it certainly is not directly derived from it, as the substitution of r for rr in Iberian Romance languages was not a known occurrence.
Some say the Spanish word actually came from the Italian imbarazzare, from imbarazzo, "obstacle" or "obstruction". That word came from imbarrare, "to block" or "to bar", which is a combination of in-, "in", with barra, "bar" (from the Vulgar Latin barra, which is of unknown origin). The problem with this theory is that the first known usage of the word in Italian was by Bernardo Davanzati (1529-1606), long after the word had entered Spanish. Thus, modern scholars believe that the Italian word actually came from the Spanish one.
The comic Married To The Sea refers to the mistranslation in the February 28, 2009 comic. The text reads, with English in parentheses, "Hey, look back up at number 3... you want to use "avergonzada" (embarrassed) there. You put "yo estoy embarazada." (I am pregnant.) You better not be embarazada, Julie, because yo no quiero ser a fuckin' abuela (I don't want to be a fuckin' grandma) at thirty-nine."
On the ABC sitcom Modern Family, Gloria is upset that her son Manny is forgetting his Spanish. Manny tells his mother: "Yo soy embarazada." This not only refers to the mistranslation, but also has Manny using the incorrect word for "to be", ser, which is used for characteristics of a person or object, rather than conditions, such as one's being pregnant. Gloria points out his mistake.
- Sandy Serva, iLanguage Translations for Global Research, January 2003, Vol. 26, Issue 1, p 51.
- "embarazada", Collins Spanish Dictionary (2003) p. 1311.
- "embarazoso", op. cit., p. 380.
- "embarazar", loc. cit.
- "embarrass", The Oxford English Dictionary, (1989) <http://dictionary.oed.com> [Retrieved on 2006-02-15].
- Joan Corominas and José Pacual, "embarazar", Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, (Gredos, 1980) Vol. II, p. 555-556.
- "embarrass", Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, (2002) <http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com> [Retrieved on 2006-02-15].
- Corominas, "embarazar".
- "Iberian", Encyclopaedia Britannica, <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9041884> [Retrieved on 2006-02-15].
- Corominas, "embarazar".
- "embarrass", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (2000) <http://www.bartleby.com/61/12/E0101200.html> [Retrieved on 2006-02-15].
- "imbarazzare", Grande Dizionario Italiano, (2007) <http://www.garzantilinguistica.it/interna_ita.html> [Retrieved on 2006-10-29].
- Married To The Sea, 02/28/2009, <http://www.marriedtothesea.com/022809/spanish-homework.gif>