Cuando dicen que los niños te ponen a prueba no pensé que fuese a ser también en el ámbito de explicarles el lenguaje. Os cuento lo que me ha pasado.

En la película de Cars 3 mi hijo de cuatro años oyó un diálogo entre dos coches, que acabó con un:

Me llamo Danny, tío.

De ahí cogió la idea de que se puede usar tío para dirigirse a los demás, y claro, a veces nos llamaba tío/a a su madre y a mí. Así que le dijimos que "tío" no se decía, que a la gente había que llamarla por su nombre, y a nosotros concretamente "papá" y "mamá".

Estaríamos hablando de la siguiente acepción del DLE:

  1. m. y f. coloq. Persona cuyo nombre y condición se ignoran o no se quieren decir. Nos recibió un tío con poca amabilidad.

Pero claro, pronto la cosa se volvió contra mí, porque yo uso la palabra a veces con otro significado:

  1. m. y f. coloq. Persona de quien se pondera algo bueno o malo. Aquel tío ganó una millonada. ¡Qué tío más pelma! ¡Qué tía más lista!

Ejemplo: con solo año y medio su hermano pequeño ya lleva colgada a la espalda la mochila del cole, llega andando hasta su clase, se la quita y la coloca con cuidado en su sitio. Así que cuando vi que hacía eso exclamé:

¡Qué tío!

Y automáticamente el mayor me miró y me dijo "eso no se dice".

Así que claro, ahora me encuentro en la tesitura de tener que explicarle a un niño de cuatro años cuándo se puede decir "tío" y cuándo no. Obviamente esto lo acabará aprendiendo a base de ejemplos, pero en todo caso, ¿cómo explicar de forma sencilla cuándo estamos usando tío con la acepción 6 y cuándo con la 7? ¿No se solapan un poco las definiciones? ¿No implica la acepción 6 que no conocemos (o no queremos decir) el nombre de la persona mencionada, como dice la acepción 7? El primer ejemplo de la acepción 6, por poner un caso de confusión, podría ir perfectamente en la acepción 7.

  • @walen tienes razón, empecé a hacer la pregunta con una idea en la cabeza y luego viré el rumbo para que la pregunta tuviera más opciones de ser on-topic. Voy a cambiar el titular.
    – Charlie
    Jun 14, 2018 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


I guess part of what you're asking is, how to explain to your four-year-old why you can get away with referring to your younger son as "tío," but it would be disrespectful for him to call you "tío." Perhaps we need a new tag "pedagogía," that focuses on how to explain certain concepts of the language to Spanish learners (of various types). I personally think that how to explain a concept about language is an interesting theme, whether it's to an adult Spanish learner or a small child.

  1. I'd take the opportunity to explain that TV and movies tend to have some amount of disrespectful speech, that we shouldn't necessarily copy; and that the disrespect we often see on the screen, whether blatant or subtle, makes movies very interesting to watch. We can enjoy it vicariously when we watch others crossing the line, or dancing on the edge, of what's socially acceptable. The tiny level of disrespect in the film you and your preschooler watched together recently is a great opportunity to prepare for the flagrant things to come, as he gets older and you and he watch ever more outrageous movies together1.

  2. Is he already aware of some words that are respectful/polite in one context but not respectful in another context? I imagine yes. For example, at home we might say "¿Quieres hacer pupú?" but elsewhere we might say "¿Quieres hacer del dos?" You can gradually build from there to increase his awareness of how we select a word or expression not just by what it means literally, but also by tone or register.

  3. I didn't completely understand the definitions you quoted (talk about subtle!). However, I think the answer is yes, there is some overlap.

1 I recently previewed Blockers on my own and then suffered over the decision whether to take my 15yo to see it; I finally decided yes, but I did give him a whole warning spiel first -- "I selected this movie to watch with you and [other parent] because it's funny, not because there's anything remotely realistic in it." After the movie, I said, "Do you understand now, why I gave you the whole unrealistic spiel?" To which he said, "Well, you didn't have to; don't worry, I'm not stupid."

By the way, I've found screenit.com to be an invaluable resource over the years in choosing films to watch with my children. I can't recommend it highly enough. There is a free version that gives you some access to their detailed ratings. It's been especially helpful for us because we have never had a television and we filter the internet, so our children have had limited screen exposure at home. We've been happy, overall, with that decision; but the flip side is that they were easily frightened by modern levels of violence and tense music in films. Careful planning was needed for both our children, to avoid being up at night with fears and nightmares after a visit to the movie theater.

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