I remember talking with a language exchange partner years ago and I wanted to say that something was, as we colloquially say in English, a “pain in the neck”, so I made the mistake most inexperienced language learners make in such situations and just translated the English literally by saying “dolor en el cuello” – it didn’t work. I got a funny look and a complete lack of comprehension from my partner.
Spanish speakers don’t say “pain in the neck” to mean pain in the neck, they say that something is a pain in the molars, they say: “dolor de muelas” (well, Spanish speakers from Spain do, I’ll get to an alternative in a minute). “Dolor” means “pain”, “de” means “of” (in this case it’s giving possession of the pain to the molars), and “muela” means “molar”.
Additionally, and I suspect this is more common in Latin America, you can also say “dolor de cabeza”, which just literally means “pain of head”, or “headache“.
And the one you’ve all been waiting for…
Is there something…a bit stronger in Spanish than “dolor de muelas”, but which means basically the same thing? Do they have an equivalent to “pain in the ass”, in other words?
Yes…and I like it, it’s rather graphic and self-explanatory.
“Grano en el culo” means, literally, “pimple on the ass”.
Important (and quick) side note!
If you’re reading this you’re probably learning Spanish at a beginner or intermediate level, and if so could I recommend you quickly check out a site called Yabla? They teach you Spanish using videos made by and for natives (e.g. TV shows, movies, YouTube videos, cartoons, news and documentaries originally made in Spanish-speaking countries for native speakers) coupled with a set of tools specifically designed for that purpose which are integrated into the video player:
- Verbatim subtitles in Spanish shown at the same time as English subtitles (you can turn either or both on or off)
- An integrated dictionary and flashcard system that both automatically looks up a word in the subtitles when you click on it as well as adds it to your flashcards for later review
- Exercises and quizzes about what you just watched that make you apply the new Spanish you just learned.
Check it out here (discounts for educators and institutions, by the way, I know a lot of you are teachers) or read my full review if you’d like more information (and screenshots of the system) first. Back to the article…
“Grano” properly means “grain”, as in a grain of sand, but it’s also slang for a pimple. “Culo” is the direct equivalent of “ass” – it’s not the polite term for that area of the body, it’s slang and profane slang at that (I’m telling you to be a bit careful about when you use it).
Ok, that’s it. Sorry I don’t have any cool history or stories about these for you but there’s just nothing like that I could find for these two.
I hope that was interesting, and be sure to stay tuned for more episodes of Learn Spanish for Real!