From “Pretty” to “Prity:” a Quick Look at American Influence in Panama

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week one: Global Citizenship

A Global Citizen is defined as “a way of living that recognizes our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies. One in which our choices and actions may have repercussions for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally.

When I first thought about joining Peace Corps I expected to experience a culture completely different from the one I grew up in. Obviously I would live in a mud hut with no running water or electricity and local kids would be running through my house all day long. That’s the dream, right? Well now that I’ve been a volunteer in Panama for 10 months I realize that my view was pretty small-minded. Sure enough that is how some volunteers live–even some in Panama! But my house has concrete walls, running water, electricity, and, thankfully, privacy. Living in Panama I reshape my worldview weekly and I’m often coming face-to-face with all the ways America has influenced Panamanian life and culture. For the sake of brevity though I’m going to focus on language. Here are 4 (Panamanian) Spanish words that come from American English:

  1. Prity: Derived from the English word “pretty” this word is often used to describe something cool or interesting. ie: “Que prity!”
  2. Cool: This one is just an English borrowing and it’s used in the same way here as it is in the US. ie: “Que cool!”
  3. Frailai: Pronounced “fry-lie” this word means flashlight. It comes from the days of the Canal.
  4. Wachiman: Pronounced “watch-e-man”this word means watchman. It also comes from the Canal days.

Lots of words come from Canal Days because of the mix of people working on the Canal



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