Someday scolars will write volumes about Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's native tongue as a distinct language rather than a dialect. Until then, we have the Costeño Dictionary
. You can consider this a companion post to the previous ones on Colombian music. Where the idiom is as salty as the ocean breezes, the distintions between language and music are not sharp ones.
I've selected a few entries for review that were instructive, and in most cases personally meaningful.Arepera: Lesbiana
Literally an arepera is a person, institution or device that makes the corn cakes that are a staple of Colombians and Venezuelans. Connection to lesbians? Ahh, we're just getting started. Avispado: Persona más maliciosa que otras, persona que trata de aprovecharse de las otras
Derived from the word for "wasp" the definition is someone who is mean or takes advantage of others. Oddly I've heard it used with a slightly different meaning, more as someone who is sharp especially in business. Hmm.Babilla: 1: Especie de Caimán pequeño.2. Mujer fea.
Either a miniature alligator or an ugly woman. Ouch. Bacano: Bueno, chévere, agradable.
One of the most common expressions [along with chévere] used for anything good or cool. Bochorno: Vergüenza
Something that is a shame or embarassment. Very commonly used in a class conscious society. Whether prompted by accidental flatulence or a fashion faux pas, "Ay, que bochorno! No te conozco! [I don't know you]" is likely to be heard between friend or family members at social events. Cachaco: Persona del Interior o sea no Costeña.
A person from Bogota or another part of the interior. A non-Costeño. Basically this is another state of mind. Costeños are known for being laid-back, lazy even, fun-loving: dancing joking and partying are the dimensions of the Costeño universe. Cachacos seem to be the opposite, at least compared to Costeños: formal, proper, humorless and easily offended.
In his memoirs Gabriel Garcia-Marquez relates in his version of the infamous labor disputes from which the myth of the United Fruit Massacre was generated, the first order to disperse the mob with gunfire wasn't obeyed by the local troops so units from the interior were brought in who were willing to comply. From then on all government soldiers were bitterly referred to as Cachacos. Like any of Garcia-Marquez's claims around this event the tale should be taken with a grain of salt, but it illustrates the attitude towards Cachachos perfectly.Chácaras: testículos
By far and away the funniest of the many Costeño/Caribbean terms for testicles.
Perfect example from a conversation with a family friend in Cartagena who is the epitome of a Costeña. Upon seeing a pair of boots with a strangely textured leather she was asked what they were made of. "¡Cuero de chácaras!" was reply followed by hysterical cackles of laughter.Chancletas: Sandalias
Traditional sandals, also almost synonymous with disciplining children.
There is a typical joke about a Pastuso
[inhabitant of the Pasto province which is the butt of the jokes of the rest of Colombia] who is to be executed by firing squad with an Engishman and a Frenchman. Just before they shoot the stoic Brit cries, "I die for the Queen!". Not to be outdone the Frenchman shouts, "I die for La Belle France!". At this point the terrified Pastuso bolts when his captors are distracted and disappears in the nearby jungle. While the soldier are blaming one another for the escape, he reappears to retrieve the sandals that came off as he ran and shouts, "I die for my G--damn chancletas
!"Cocotazo: golpe en la cabeza con el nudillo
Literally, a blow to the head from a coconut falling from a tree, it is kind of a power-noogie. The knuckle of the middle finger is extended from a fist and then bounced off the top of the victim's skull. What makes this particularly cruel is that by it's nature it is reserved for children and other short humans.
One of the Colombian in-laws is a practicianer of this dreaded punishment. All she has to do is shout. "Un solo cocotazo...!" and her children run screaming covering the tops of their heads. The synonym "coscorrón" is an onomatopoeia for the "big 'cosk!'" sound that a cocotazo produces.Corroncho: Ordinario, Tosco, sin estilo.
One of the most common Costeño expressions used in our household. En La Casa de papijoe, it refers to any object, expression or behavior that is low-class or unsophisticated. On the Colombian side this was a give-away of the family's position in the limnial space between higher and lower society. Once they had attained success and became nouveau riche, a simple earthy [even Costeño] expression could give away past corroncho
influences [¡Ay que bochorno!
I tend to use it [only when pressed] to express my true feelings about a knickknack or home furnishing that would perhaps find a better home in a doublewide trailer in Arkansas.Cucallo: Pegao, Resto de arroz que queda pegado en el fondo de la olla en que se cocina
Commonly known as "pegado" in Latin America. It's the rice that sticks and partially burns on the inside of the pot. Considered something of a delicacy, I've seen it served separately from the unburned rice. Personally it tastes like carmelized uncooked instant rice and I don't see the appeal.
This is a good example of an untranslatable expression that will surprise me when I attempt to read Garcia-Marquez in the original Costeño.Flojera: (nom.)Pereza
Huh. I didn't even know there *was* another word for laziness in Spanish. I suppose I should have looked it up but...Fritos: Comidas fritas varias a base de harina de maiz o yuca.
(empanadas, arepas, caribañolas etc.)
There is actually a "Festival de los Fritos" in C-gena. Oh the buñelos, papas rellenos, stuffed arepas, all cooked in pure lard. As delicious as they are, after about 4 or 5 samples, the gringo digestive tract is vanquished. I'll leave it at that. Guache: Burdo, Grosero. Persona de malas costumbres.
Not unlike "corroncho", but specifically in regards to persons, synonym to "maleducado". Rude, Boorish, badly brought up. Adjective most frequently used by mrs p about Hugo Chavez.Guayabo
: enfermedad causada por el cosumo excesivo de alcohol, resaca
A hangover. Similar to Mexican "crudo". Huepaje
: Grito de alegría
Also spelled guepaje. Similar to "Yippee!" in spirit and the rural associations. Used all the time in cumbias and porros. ¡Ay homb'e, guepaje!Ira: (Interjección) manifestación de incredulidad, ej: "iraaaaa, eso no te lo crees
ni tú mismo" //¿será que es la contracción de "mentira" -> (ment)ira?
Typical response to one of my daughters' fibs. Irala?
"Oh Reeeeally?"Joder: molestar (ej: no me jodas= no me molestes)
To bother, "bug", or annoy. Used in exactly the same sense as the Anglo-Saxon "f" verb when combined with the preposition "with". Also an expressing of disbelief [¡No joda!]
used extensively in the Giordano's story
.Jopo: 1. nalgas de la mujer, culo (que jopo tiene) 2.mal, inaceptable (algo es jopo)
I have to take issue with the diccionario's definition. Our usage is in contrast to to other "butt" words like culo
, or nalgas
. Jopo refers specifically to the...um..."O-ring" if you will...
For some colorful applications, see entries for jopoloco
.Mojon: materia fecal. 2 suerte(cule mojon, osea, que suerte!)
Specifically, a turd. You would be surprised how useful this expression is in Colombia. Or maybe you wouldn't...Monicongo: mamarracho
The diccionario says a buffoon or clown. However we use it also for unusual or ridiculous things that lack a better descriptors.
For example, my sister in law once referred to the Statue of Libery as "La Moniconga"Patacón: plátano frito y aplastado, tostón
Plantains, fried and smushed. Subject of epic and song.Pilas, Ponte (las) pilas: Pon atención, Despiértate, Apúrate.
Literally "batteries". Most common meaning is "hurry up". This phrase nearly always produces an ironic smile in gringo husbands. Vaina: cosa u objeto.
A thing. Very common expression. If Ray Smuckles really spoke Spanish he would use this all the time:"Ay homb'e, ¿Porque quieres hacer una vaina todavia?
If my patient audience hasn't OD'ed on vainas colombianas
I'm sure I'll have lots more material on my return in mid-July. I'm desperately trying to finish Garcia-Marquez's memoirs in English. Once it's committed more or less to memory the original Costeño won't be so tough. I hope to get some pictures of some of pivotals settings in his life and create a series around that. Hopefully circumstances will cooperate.