The richness of the Spanish language cannot be understated, especially when it comes to ways of describing one’s prójimo (neighbor, fellow man). An excellent example is found in the many translations of the verb “to brag” or “to boast about.” A cursory investigation online turned up over twenty ways to express this, many of which are unique to certain countries or regions. I’ve extracted from my personal notes several distinct ways of expressing this, most of which are fairly universal. I’ll start with those which I’ve heard most frequently in conversation and then work down the list…
- presumir de: This is a good one to describe someone who boasts about one of their perceived qualities. For instance, if you say “Él presume de listo”, you mean that “He thinks he’s smart but really isn’t… it’s just in his head.” You can basically throw in any kind of description here: “Ella presume de guapa” = “She thinks she’s hot.” Presumir de can also mean “to show off”… for instance, you can say “Le gusta presumir de coche,” which means “He likes to show off his car.” Presumir works without the preposition in phrases such as “Mi tío quiere presumir el baile que aprendimos” or “Tú vas por la vida presumiendo rectitud.” These phrases translate as “My uncle wants to show off the dance that we learned” and “You go through life acting like you’re honest.” Finally, if you want someone to stop showing off, just say “¡Deja de presumir!”
- creerse: This means “to think of oneself as.” You can say, “se cree la divina garza” which means, “She thinks she’s God’s gift to man” (literally, “She thinks she’s the divine heron”) or “Se cree el mero mero” which means “He thinks he’s the boss”, among many other variations. In Mexico, it’s common to say “se cree mucho”, with the person’s arrogance implied.
- jactarse: The use of this verb implies that someone is proud of something, but not necessarily in a good way. “Èl se jacta de haber asaltado un banco” = “He brags about having robbed a bank.” With jactarse, you’re bragging about something you did or something you possess, whether an intrinsic quality or some tangible item. Thus, you can say “Se jacta de su riqueza” or “Se jacta de su bellísimo cabello”, but not “Se jacta de su marido,” since the latter refers to someone else. For this, you use presumir de: “Presume de marido”.
- alardear / hacer alarde de: These two are synonyms and which is more common depends upon where you are. Essentially, they convey practically the same meaning as presumir de. There may a slight shade of difference between the phrases, “Estaban alardeando mucho en el bar” and “Estaban presumiendo mucho en el bar.” In the first phrase, you know that they were bragging a lot in the bar, but it doesn’t matter so much about what. The second phrase, however, leaves you wondering “¿De qué?” Thus, bragging for the sake of bragging is perhaps better expressed with alardear.
- dárselas or tirárselas: These expressions are practically synonyms of all of the above, although their usage, especially with the latter, varies by country. In Mexico, for instance, “dárselas” is common but “tirárselas” may not be understood. In Colombia, however, both are acceptable. “Se las da de culto” or “Se las tira de culto”, you mean that a person thinks he’s refined when he may not really be.
- Se echa mucha crema a sus tacos: And here’s a fun one which is typical of Mexico… “He throws a lot of cream on his tacos” or “He thinks he’s the big kahuna”.
These explanations come from my notes and my research, but feel free to clarify or add your own explanations to them. Incidentally, while preparing this article, I found an excellent website which I’ll share with you: www.definicion.de. It’s practically a dictionary with very thorough explanations of what words mean, where they came from and how they’re used. It’s all in Spanish and seems like a great learning tool!
I hope I’ve armed you with the vocabulary needed to describe those pesky, arrogant, boastful people that are all around us. ¡Hasta la próxima!