Nicknames in Spanish & Gender - cariño=man/woman?

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by polyglotguy, Mar 12, 2010.

  1. polyglotguy Senior Member

    English - USA
    I am confused about the grammatical gender of a word depending on whether you give the nickname to a man or a woman.

    I will give a couple of examples to illustrate:

    1. A man calls his girlfriend "cariño" -- Is this okay to do, even though cariño is a masculine word?

    2. Suppose you have a smart female friend who has the nickname "The Brain." In Spanish, could you call her "El Cerebro"? Or would you call her "La Cerebra"?

    Thanks very much in advance!
  2. Juan Jacob Vilalta

    Juan Jacob Vilalta Banned

  3. polyglotguy Senior Member

    English - USA
    Good point about cariño not being a nickname, and that's good to know that it's correct when you're talking about a woman.

    When you said "Why not? Nicknames can be funny", did you mean that "El Cerebro" would be correct or "La Cerebra" would be correct?

    Thanks very much!
  4. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    "Cariño" means 'sweetheart' or 'darling' and can be applied to any person.

    If you want to call a woman "the brain", the most common would be to call her "la cerebro", but as Juan Jacob Vilalta says, it's up to you to invent any variation.
  5. Jenny_1987 Member

    Español - Argentina
    1. "Cariño" is not a nickname, it's not a name. It's a word that means something like "love" and it has not a female form, it's neutral.

    2. Something similar happens with "cerebro". Cerebro is a common concrete noun, not a nickname, although you CAN use it to refer to someone if you want to.
    Cerebro is masculine, and no matter what, it refers to the human brain, thus, its gender cannot be changed. (Even if you're talking about a girl)
  6. polyglotguy Senior Member

    English - USA
    Thanks everyone for the help. :)
  7. Juan Jacob Vilalta

    Juan Jacob Vilalta Banned

    Se puede, se puede. Es cuestión de gustos, de inventiva, de picardía.

    Ahí viene El Mariposo, (Los amigos lo apodaron así, por ser homosexual).
    ¿Cómo estás, Nariztóteles? (Los amigos lo apodaron así, porque le gusta la filosofía y tiene nariz prominente).
    Ahí viene otra vez La Cerebrita. (Los amigos la apodaron así por ser la estudiosa de la clase).
  8. Jenny_1987 Member

    Español - Argentina
    Something to add: someone said "la cerebro" could be an option. That is true, taking into account that many people say things that are not correct when they're joking, and it's still acceptable. But I think that "la cerebro" is really referring to "la chica cerebro" (that's why the female article) but "chica" has been omitted because it's too obvious.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2010
  9. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    Yes... you can think of it in those terms. In Spain at least, that kind of "apparent disagreement" is very common in nicknames: "el pelotas", "la moños", etc.
  10. electrifiedblues

    electrifiedblues Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Spanish - Argentina
    No debes confundir el género gramatical de un sustantivo con el género (sexo) del referente señalado por aquél. En el primer caso estamos ante una categoría gramatical que, como el número, se manifiesta en los sustantivos y adjetivos. Esto es lo que suele llamarse "flexión nominal". No todos los sustantivos del español pueden ser modificados morfológicamente en su género, a decir verdad, bastante pocos permiten ese cambio: algunos referidos a personas (muchacho/muchacha, poeta/ poetisa, sacerdote/sacerdotisa, etc.) y otros a animales (león/leona, tigre/tigresa). En estos casos, por supuesto, la modificación responde al sexo del referente. Luego están los casos de sustantivos que cambian de significado con el cambio de género: el Papa (obispo de Roma de la Iglesia Católica) / la papa (tubérculo), el frente/la frente, el policía/la policía.
  11. Fer BA

    Fer BA Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Castellano de Buenos Aires

    Take into account that we're talking about nicknames, and in that area you can do whatever you want...

    Now, if we talk about regular nouns in regular sentences, you should use the proper article corresponding to the gender of the noun, independently if you talk about men or women.

    Ella era el cerebro de la operación.
    El era la mano derecha del jefe.

    Now, there's a huge change going on, mostly in Spain and some countries of the Cono Sur, where traditionally words used with an -o at the end are getting genderized and are used with -a at the end when referring to women. An example of this is from a Spain's Government Minister (the level of a Secretary) that addressed the members of the Congress as miembros and miembras. So, if you're learning spanish, just be aware of the fact that you might find some words in the paper that are not (yet...) in the dictionary.

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