Another Day in Paradise magazine

The magazine for all things Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
Serving the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo community since 1999

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Archives: Volume 7 - March 2006
2005/2006: Nov | Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr

Cuate means fraternal twin in the traditional sense, but use it idiomatically and you’re calling someone your buddy. Slang can also take on geographical connotations, illustrated by the word “sanka,” which in Zihuatanejo signifies a local, but don’t expect anyone to catch on four hours away in Acapulco.

Jefe (or jefa when feminized) means “boss” but translates to “father” (“mother”) in slang. Patas de perro are your dog’s paws, but spoken loosely, the expression means “restless.” So you’re starting to catch on? No hay bronca – that’s “not a problem.” Ese chango means “that guy” in slang, even though the dictionary says a chango is a monkey. Many north-of-the-border blondes are probably used to being called gueras in Zihua, though Webster’s will tell you the word to use is really rubia.

My slang experts informed me the word gringo (gringa for females) originated during the Mexican/American War in the mid-19th century when green-uniformed U.S. soldiers were enthusiastically instructed by finger-pointing Mexicans to “green-go!” Before anyone out there takes issue with this, there are at least half a dozen other explanations claiming to be the real story. (Quien sabe? That’s non-slang for “who knows”?) Anyway, said my sources, the word has pretty much fallen out of favor these days, replaced by gabacho (gabacha), which used to mean only a French foreigner but now designates all non-Mexicans. Even slang words sometimes get abbreviated, so be alert for folks calling you a gabo (gaba) as you meander about town. There’s even slang tongue-twisters. Tatacha la gabacha means “Do you speak English?” If all this stuff is driving you to drink, be careful you don’t end up crudo (cruda) – that’s with a hangover. Worse yet would be una cruda espantosa…a scary hangover. And that would be un desmadre, which is to say a mess.

Mexico can be a very classist society, and the country’s slang reflects that. So, a naco describes someone who has money but no class or, alternatively, simply someone with no class. On a more egalitarian level, a “jerk” (or fool or idiot) from any walk of life is often called a pendejo, quite a change from its dictionary definition as a pubic hair. Call someone your taco de ojo (word for word, the “taco of your eye,”) and you’re saying that person is awfully easy on the eyes but falls in the “look but don’t touch” category. For the ladies, this “forbidden fruit” could be some well-toned Chippendales performing on stage; for the men, a tempting table dancer in one of Zihua’s night clubs.

There are longer expressions too. “No hay de queso, no mas de papas” tells someone you’re “broke,” though the literal translation is “I don’t have cheese – or potatoes either.”

Let’s say you’ve done a small job for someone, and they ask what they owe you. Dame para un refresco (“give me enough for a soda”), you could say, hoping the person you’re talking to is clever enough to realize you don’t REALLY want a Pepsi but a little lana.

Here’s one that might take a while to memorize, but it’s worth it: Si montas un camello, no te vallan a salir ampollas en las nalgas. Use this anytime you need to say the equivalent of, “Does a bear s___ in the woods?” In case you’re wondering, the Spanish slang literally means, “If you’re going to ride a camel, you’re gonna wind up with blisters on your butt.”

This is just a starter course, amigos, but enough for one lesson. Vámonos de reventón! “Let’s party!”

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Mexican Slang 101

By Nancy Seeley

Híjole! Qué onda? Ándale! Guácala!

Is that Spanish? Si…but you probably won’t find those words in a traditional Spanish/English dictionary, and they most likely won’t turn up in lessons at a language school because they’re Mexican slang. Translated, they mean “Holy cow! What’s happening? Hurry up! That’s horrible!” If you can incorporate these and other expressions in your speech down here, you’ve taken a step towards sounding like a local.

Like English slang, some words can mean different things depending on the situation. Órale, for example, means “sounds great” in a positive sense, but when spoken negatively, it changes to “what the heck”…or something a lot stronger. (Similarly, híjole morphs from “hey” to that stronger “what the &*!!!#”.)

Qué padre! And Qué barbara! both mean “cool!,” while qué poca madre signifies “not worth a darn.” Although the dictionary says lana is wool, it also means “money” or – to use English slang – “dough.” If you call someone codo, you’re saying he’s a cheapskate, even though the dictionary primly says that word means “elbow.” When you get the hang of this stuff, you may well say sale y vale, which means “I agree.”