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Translation Problem #004 – Masturbation, let’s not talk about it

Lucia calls me over to her desk and asks, “How do you say ‘paja’ in English?”

“Paja” means masturbation.

“Uhh…uhh…” I say.

Maybe I’d misheard her. No 12 year old girl would politely ask me how to say “masturbation” and then write it in a school assignment. Maybe she’d said another word. Maybe she’d said “pija.”

“What word?” I ask her.

“Paja,” she says again, and looks me right in the eye.

Spaniards are more open about sex and sexuality. The school I work at in Spain has three separate paintings of naked women on the walls. This is one of them:

Maja Desnuda

My middle school English teacher wouldn’t let us watch the kissing scenes in Romeo and Juliet.

So maybe this is a cultural thing, and I certainly don’t want to shame her out of asking questions. But I also really don’t want to answer this question.

Fortunately I’m the language assistant and not the language teacher. So I say, “I don’t know. Ask the teacher,” and I walk away.

Lucia repeats her question to the teacher who writes the word “straw” on the board.

Straw???

I grab an English-Spanish dictionary off another student’s desk, and sure enough-

“Paja, noun-
1. Straw
2. Wank”

Who the hell came up with that system?

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10 Responses to Translation Problem #004 – Masturbation, let’s not talk about it

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas May 12, 2014 at 10:06 PM #

    Haha, we’ve all been there! Pajita means straw, as in the one you sip out of, and I once told a waiter to give me one for my boyfriend. Yeah, oops…

    • Kate Peregrina May 13, 2014 at 3:39 AM #

      Good to know I’m not the only one!

  2. Liliana May 13, 2014 at 10:11 PM #

    LOL this is really funny… my boyfriend is from Madrid and when he first said “pajita” it freaked me out. Thanks for all the info by the way! :) I will be an auxiliar for the 2014-2015 year and I’m really excited/nervous. Your website is helping answer a lot of questions!

    • Kate Peregrina May 13, 2014 at 11:07 PM #

      Glad the blog is helpful! The months of anticipation before this program are definitely nerve-racking.

  3. Mike of Mapless Mike May 14, 2014 at 5:09 AM #

    This is hilarious, and as weird as it may sound, I’m looking forward to these types of misunderstandings next year when I’m teaching in Spain!

  4. Jenny May 26, 2014 at 5:17 AM #

    I live in Mexico and I had not heard this (thanks for the heads up!). However, in high school Spanish class I was always taught that a jacket was chaqueta. Don’t want use that here- it’s jack off.

  5. Angela August 6, 2014 at 1:30 AM #

    So I am confused. Does paja mean masturbation, or not? Lol

    • Stacy September 6, 2014 at 7:23 PM #

      Angela, it means both. In proper Spanish it means Straw but in slang it’s talking about masturbation. Sort of like here in the States the word rubber can be used as slang for a condom so when an Australian student asks for one, meaning an eraser, they get snickered at.

      • Samantha January 16, 2015 at 12:22 AM #

        I learned “paja” as straw, and if you say it in any normal context (i.e.– “The horses sleep on straw”) I think it just means straw, no big deal. In Spain I learned the expression “hacerse la paja” which makes a little more sense to refer to masturbation. I think it’s all about context!

  6. tuchee October 20, 2014 at 9:05 PM #

    yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh boyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yeah yeah yeah u dick heads wooooooooooooo im fucking rich yes thank youuuuuuu im richhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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