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Palabras Domingueras, an Exercise in Fancy Spanish Words

Spanish language students seeking an armory of fancy words need look no further than the opinion columns of Mexico's principal newspapers

Spanish Pinpointed

Habitual readers of Mexican newspapers discover that some of the best stuff is found in the opinion columns, of which there are many, with a typical daily containing three full pages or more of them, not including the business columns in separate sections.

A chance to learn fancy words in Spanish

If you read enough of them, you will also discover what appears to be a competition going on among the writers to see who can use the most fancy words, whose meaning is unknown to all but a select few.  These words in Mexico are known as palabras domingueras, or “Sunday words,” a reference to the tradition of Sunday best: best clothes, best behavior—and best words.

For the student of language, one option is to write down all the palabras domingueras encountered, look them up in a dictionary, and learn them by heart.  Many hard-sounding words will actually turn out to mean something very simple, eliciting a sound something like aish accompanied by an incredulous shaking of the head, while others will be so subtle in meaning that reference back to the article will be needed for context.

Spanish vocabulary in practice

But the exercise will, in time, equip the language buff with a veritable stock of palabras domingueras. Thus armed with the etymic implements of euphuistic battle —lots of words— it’s a matter of finding somewhere to put them to practice.

This is where the keyboard comes in, since the words won’t be found very useful in everyday conversation.  In polite company fancy vocabulary might draw blank stares or quizzical looks, while at home they are more likely to be treated to howls of laughter and weeks of teasing until you vow never, ever, to touch another dictionary as long as you live.

Newspapers as a source for fancy words

While most newspapers have a clear editorial line in favor of one side or the other, readers will usually find articles expressing both views on any given page.  To see what this commentary is about you could look, for example, here and here.

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