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‘No Problemo’? Actually, There Is a Problem.

One of the most misused Spanish phrases for English speakers is “no problemo.”  To our American ears, it sounds ok.  After all, many Spanish words are similar to English but with a vowel at the end, right?  

The problem is that this ignores that Spanish nouns are gendered.  In this case, “problemo” should be “problema.”  It gets more confusing though because “problema” happens to be a masculine noun that ends in “a,” not “o.”  This means one would refer to “el problema,” not “la problema.”  And as any Spanish speaker knows, the phrase should be “no problema.”  

…as any Spanish speaker knows, the phrase should be “no problema.”  

“You don’t say ‘affirmative’ or some shit like that. You say, ‘No problemo.’”

In English, we don’t have genders for nouns.  In Spanish, there are gendered nouns, but it’s usually pretty straightforward: masculine nouns end in “o.”  There are exceptions, however, and “problema” is one of them.  As puts it, “problema” is part of a list of exceptions: 

“These nouns look like they have feminine endings, but are grammatically masculine.”

Another masculine Spanish noun ending in “a” is “el dia.”  “Dia,” a high frequency word, might also be confused as being feminine given its ending.  

A famous example of the ungrammatical “no problemo” from cinema:  In Terminator 2,  John Connor (Eddy Furlong) teaches the Terminator how to use informal idiomatic expressions, including “no problemo,” and the iconic “hasta la vista”: 

But hey, Eddy Furlong was in his adolescent prime here, and he sounds pretty cool giving Arnold Schwarzenegger the lowdown on idiomatic English. He’d probably swear at me for correcting his grammar.

Americans like to say “no problemo” just to mess around, but they are probably not aware that they have butchered Spanish even with these two seemingly innocent words.  This is not to get judgmental about it; but rather, just to show that even very light use of another language can be fraught! 

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