Never Ignore a Tilde

Anna LargeEnglish1 Comment

N.B. Ã/ã (atilde) is a letter used in some languages, generally considered a variant of the letter.

I thought it would be a nice gesture to wish a Spanish colleague ‘Happy New Year’ in Spanish via WhatsApp. A simple enough task you would have thought, but I hadn’t bargained on the tilde, that squiggly line which sometimes appears above the letter ‘n’ in Spanish words, and which affects the pronunciation and, most importantly, the meaning.

In Spanish, the word for ‘year’ is spelt with an ‘a’, an ‘n’ and an ‘o’ with a tilde prominently displayed above the ‘n’. My smartphone doesn’t do tildes, so I just wrote the ‘a’ the ‘n’ and the ‘o’, ano. Feliz ano nuevo. Oh dear!

There was a swift response which consisted mainly of emoticons spouting tears of hysterical laughter. It was pointed out to me that ‘ano’, denuded of its tilde, actually means ‘anus’! So there we have it. I trust everyone’s colorectal surgery went well. A Happy New Anus to you all!

David King

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