Alternative Human Anatomy

The first time I heard “me duele la paleta”, the Peruvian in me was very confused. See, in Perú, a “paleta” is a small wooden racket, like the one used for playing ping-pong. After growing up in Lima watching Mexican TV shows, I was aware and quite confident, that in Mexico a “paleta” is a lollipop or a popsicle, but I was at a loss when this Mexican patient used that term and there was no candy in sight, just a shoulder blade that he got injured at work.

I have worked as a medical interpreter both in Arizona and California and have taught in New Mexico. Through this experience I have realized that the average patient’s educational level is around or below fourth grade level and that some lived in farms. Therefore, some patients borrow names of body parts for animals and are not aware of the other options available.

As medical interpreters we need to be aware of these alternative body parts in order to convey the same meaning into English. But, I recommend not using these terms with patients, unless they use them first because some may find our using animal body parts offensive. For example, if a provider asks the patient about a stomachache I would not ask the patient if his “tripas” or “panza” hurt, but if he has a “dolor de estómago”. On the other hand, if the patient says “me duelen las tripas” I would interpret he has a “stomachache.” I do this in order to avoid confusion with the provider and because one told a colleague once that “he wasn’t a veterinary, but an orthopedic surgeon.”

Here is a list I have compiled that may be useful for interpreters that have Spanish as a second language. Enjoy!

  • Trompa: It is the pig’s nose. Long, prolonged nose of some animals such as an elephant or tapir. It can also be used as a verb, “trompazo” which means a hard blow to the nose/face.

“Me cerraron la puerta en la cara y me dieron en la trompa” means “the door was closed on my face and I was hit on the nose.”

  • Hocico: Area of the animal, where the mouth and the nose are located.

“Me tropecé y me caí de hocico” would be “I tripped and I fell forward”. In this case, we use the mouth in Spanish as a point of reference, just like “echarse boca arriba” o “echarse boca abajo”.

  • Cogote, pescuezo: Part of an animal that goes from the back of the neck to the trunk.

“Lo agarraron del pescuezo” would be “he was grabbed by the neck.”

  • Paleta: Scapula or shoulder blade. It is the cow’s “beef cut” in the scapular area.

“Me duele la paleta” means “my shoulder blade hurts.”

  • Buche: In some animals, it is a membranous bag that communicates with the esophagus and in other cases it is the stomach.

“Siempre anda con el buche lleno” is translated as “he always has a fully belly”.

  • Bofe: A beef or pig’s lung.

“Tosí tanto que era como golpearme el bofe” would be “I coughed so much that it was as hitting my lung.”

  • Panza: Belly or abdomen. In animals, it is one of the four cavities of the stomach of ruminants.

“Tuve dolor de panza y diarrea” would mean “I had a stomachache and diarrhea.”

  • Tripas: Intestines, belly. It can range from tripes, intestines, innards, gut, belly from animals.

“Si no como a las doce, me suenan las tripas” means “if I don’t eat at noon, my tripes rumble.”

  • Lomo: In animals, it can be the entire back from the neck to the hips.

“Después de piscar aguacate me duele el lomo” would be “after picking avocado, my back hurts.” People who work in the fields use the Spanglish term “piscar” that comes from “to pick”.

  • Cuadril: Hip or lower back. Bone that comes form the last 2 ribs and hip of an animal.

“En el trabajo me agacho mucho y me duele el cuadril” means “at work, I bend over a lot and my lower back hurts.”

  • Espinazo: Spine or vertebral column.

“Tengo una hernia en el espinazo” means “I have a hernia on my spine.”

  • Rabadilla: In fact, it is a chicken’s tailbone.

“Me caí y me golpeé la rabadilla” means “I fell and hit my tailbone.”

  • Patas: Legs. All animals have “patas” so it is not borrowed from an animal in particular.

“Me duelen las patas” should be translated as “my hooves hurt”, but a provider once told a friend of mine that he was a doctor, not a veterinarian.

  • Chamorro: In an animal it would be a beef shank.

“Estoy parada todo el día y me duelen los chamorros” means “I am standing all day long and my calves hurt.”