Some recent encounters with the Colombian slang have led me to write this post. More specifically my encounters with the word “tinieblo”. In order for me to explain this word, however, I must explain a series of other words closely related to it to understand its uniqueness. Let’s begin with the word “amante”. The Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (RAE), a.k.a. the pretentious authority on the Spanish language defines it:
- amante : person with whom one has illicit romantic relations.
The English equivalent would be “lover”. I would go as far as to say that the illicitness comes from an unorthodox affair, perhaps a crossing of social status, age difference, royal status, cheating, etc. This brings us to the word “mozo(a)”, according to RAE:
- mozo(a) : someone who is inclined to give into carnal desires, i.e., an adulterer.
So, the word “mozo(a)” has more religious or moral connotations. I have heard “amante” and “mozo” used in the same way, so the difference might be a formal one.
This brings us to our slang “tinieblo”, which is not in the RAE. The literal meaning is:
- tiniebla : a lack of light (in an abstract or moral sense); ignorance and confusion due to lack of knowledge.
It’s translated to English as “darkness”, but I think “shadows” is a better fit. What does this have to do with its masculine equivalent or a lover? Well, quite a bit. The “tinieblo” is a lover in the shadows. It’s someone who doesn’t fall in love with anyone and no one falls in love with them. It is someone with no strings attached, no compromises, or obligations. More importantly it is someone who is always referred to as the “tinieblo” never by first name; your friends have never met them, but they know he or she exists. The “tinieblo” is the occasional lover, but one who will not bring you flowers or complications. The English equivalent would be a poetic, more discreet version of someone you’re just fooling around with.
This last one is an expression I heard my friend say once. It is an expression that describes someone’s punctuality: “más puntual que novia fea” (More punctual than an ugly girlfriend). Although I cannot speak for the totality of the hispanic community, I would say that for the most part they are not known to be punctual people. That said, this expression would indicate that extreme punctually is actually not a desirable quality, being attributed mostly to someone desperate, willing to please – ugly. Anyways, you can judge that one on your own.