Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gringos beware! Do not try this at home

Thanks to everyone for the great e-mails after I sent out my mega-update - good to hear from you. I'd especially like to thank Juan and Polo who can add to their respective business cards "Master of Chilango Colloquialisms and Coach in the Fine Art of Speaking Mexican Spanish." Both can contribute guest entries to my blog anytime.

In the spirit of sharing, here's the link to the "Dirty Word of the Month" podcast I recorded as part of my last job as an editor at Smart English Magazine.

¡Qué lo disfrutes!
Dirty Word of the Month

Following Juan´s sage advice, I´m adding a star system to the rapidly growing list of "Vocabulario Esencial" to prevent well-intentioned Spanish-language learners from ending up with their foot in their mouth (meter la pata). See below for some more tips to avoid saying something obscene.

But first - this excellent expanded definition of "a huevo" from Polo:

A Huevo’s main meaning is more related to saying Yes and in certain variations it is a reaffirmation of your actions…

In some cases A huevo is used in a cool way, to express coolness…
Like the “shagadelic baby yeah” Mexican version of it…. A huevooo...


Q: Vas a ir a la fiesta?
Are you going to the party?
A: A huevo!

Q: A poco no esta padre ese coche?
Isn´t this car awesome?
A: A huevo!

Q: No puedo creer que te ligaste a esa vieja!
I can't believe you hooked up with her.
A: A huevo!

Q: No se como pudiste escaparte sin que tus papas te regañaran.
I don't know how you got away without getting caught by your parents.
A: A huevo!

I'm trying to think what the English translation would be and I'm thinking something like "Hell yeah," "F--- yeah" or "Don´t you know it!" or maybe like "Boo-yeah," although let's not start saying that again and indeed forget we ever once said such a thing.

So I've given you guys some fun vocabulary to play with, but here's some that you´d best not touch with a 10-foot pole. In other words, don't try to use these phrases without the help of a trusted and patient Mexican friend with a good sense of humor.

Words that are way too easy to mess up:

I finally just had to cut my parents off. It´s just too easy to go horribly wrong.
If your food is spicy - "Está picante."
If the weather is hot - "Hace calor."
If you are hot (and not in the Paris Hilton way) - "Tengo calor."
If you say "Estoy caliente," it means you´re horny.

I´m embarassed = Tengo vergüenza
Estoy embarazado/a = I´m pregnant (and probably even more embarassed)

One of the first things we all learn in Spanish is How old are you?/¿Cuántos años tienes?
Easy - I thought. Until an English friend asked a teenager we knew, ¿Cuántos anos tienes?/How many anuses do you have? To which she replied, "Just one, but it works very well."

Not a problem in Mexico. However, in Habana, Cuba, and only in Habana as far as I can tell, papaya is slang for a woman´s vagina. The beloved tropical fruit is referred to as "fruta bomba."

In one sense, they´re just eggs. In the other, they´re balls. Do you really want to talk about huevos that much? Just don't, okay?
I would like to insert a joke here, courtesy of my friend, Ana.
¿Por qué la gallina ama tanto a sus pollitos?
Why does the mother hen love her chicklets so much?
Por que le cuesta un huevo cada uno.
Because each one costs her a huevo.

Practically anything you try to say
Due to the good old doble sentido (double meaning), I think just about anything could be construed as a reference to sex. For instance, apparently planchar/to iron is slang for sex here in DF.
I once tried to say something about putting spicy chile in my beer and ended up saying something about penises. The moral of the story was the barman offered me the biggest cup of beer I've ever seen in my life and said it was on the house if I drank it all. I decided to use the only word in Spanish I'm aware of that has only one meaning, "No."

Bad words you shouldn´t say in front of your suegra (mother-in-law)unless she's as cool as those old ladies from the Golden Girls or Phyllis Diller, and maybe you shouldn´t say at all if you´re a girl:
(*Note: These aren´t the best translations. But this is a guide advising you what NOT to say so...)

Chingar - f---
Vete a la verga - Go to hell (literally Go to the penis)
Pinche - 'effin, damn
Güey - dude
Cabrón/a - asshole/bitch
Pendejo - stupid asshole
No mames - Shut up, No way! Literally, stop sucking the tit or something like that. No manches would be the innocuous expression to use.
Anything with madre, ie:
Estoy hasta la madre- I´ve had it
Es todo un desmadre - It´s an effin mess.
Chinga tu madre - Go fuck your mother.

Geez, this could go on forever...
Well, if anyone has some hilarious stories about making egregrious errors while attempting to speak Spanish, send them along.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pobres futbolistas chaparritos

*Can't get this to upload straight, but you all can turn your heads, right?


Mexicans are short!

That is not in and of itself a major problem for anyone besides tall people visiting Mexico who are well-advised to watch their heads. However it has hit a new level of concern according to this news article anyway, because it is preventing Mexico from dominating on the football field. To quote:

"The Mexican national soccer team is 'a team of short stature' which is why they need to look for taller, heavier and stronger players in order to truly compete, according to the technical director to the club owners."

Apparently, the average height for the Mexican team is a mere 1.75 centimeters (5'9"), ranking even behind Japan, compared to Germany's impressive 1.85 centimeters (6'1"). This is indeed grave. I was too busy giggling to actually reach the conclusion of the article, but in terms of resolving this problem, I'm sure prayers won't hurt.

Want a job? How much do you weigh and do you live with your mom?

I like things that aren't entertaining on purpose - for instance my ballot for the recall of California governor Gray Davis which included exotic dancers and a sumo wrestler among the candidates.
A couple months ago, my friend Marco was taking job applications and showed me a few. I think I would put the standard Mexican job application form right up there among the most personally invasive documents ever created. You can pick one up for 10 cents at any stationery store and it pretty much covers all elements of your life, many of which I'm pretty sure would be illegal to request of job candidates in the States. That's not to say that everyone fills out every section nor that this application is used by all candidates everywhere. However, it exists. Among the not-quite-so-common line items:

Personal details

Recent photo
You live with: O parents O family O relatives O alone
People that depend on you: # of children, a spouse, parents, other
Civil state: O Married O Single O Other, explain

Health and Personal Habits

What do you consider your current state of health?
Do you suffer from any chronic disease?
What sports do you play?
Do you belong to a team or sports club?
What's your favorite pastime?
What is the goal of your life?


Names of parents and spouse, whether alive, home address and job
Names and ages of your children

General information

Do you have life insurance?
Have you been affiliated with any union?

Economic information

Do you have any other income? How much?
Does your spouse work? Monthly income _________
Do you own your home or pay rent? Value of house or monthly rent _______
Do you have your own car? Brand and model ___________
Do you have debt? How much?
How much are your monthly expenses?

The ultimate guide to Mexican meat

You think you speak Spanish? I bet you can’t even read a Mexican menu. I certainly couldn’t when I got here and I swear someone’s inventing new kinds of meat here everyday just to confuse me.

In school, learning the words for different meats was a 10-minute mini-lesson that looked something like this:

Red meat – carne
Beef – res
Chicken – pollo
Pork – puerco
Fish – pescado

Mexicans have a considerably broader view of the realm of meat, as reflected in their use of a bajillion different words, much as the Eskimos have a bajillion different words for snow.
You might pick up a Mexican menu with only two menu items – let’s say tacos and tortas (a badass Mexican sandwich) – that runs to two or three pages because there are so many different meats or combinations of meats listed.

The quick and dirty guide:


Al pastor – a succulent hunk of pork with a delicious sauce that is roasted on a continually turning spit for hours. You’ll see guys adeptly lopping off bits of the meat and the pineapple on top with a machete-like knife, the meat flying through the air, landing perfectly on the tortilla in his hand. Impressive.
Jamon - ham
Tocino- bacon
Cueritos – strips of gelatinous pork fat. This one is not growing on me, even when draped over a bed of cabbage sprinkled with lime and hot sauce on top of a big chicarron.
Chicharrones – pork rinds. So bad, but yet so good.
Milanesa – a piece of pork pounded to less than a centimeter thick, breaded and fried
Maciza – pure, solid leg meat
Chuleta – pork chop
Carnitas – various body parts, thankfully chopped into little bits
Trompa - snout
Cachete – cheek


Arrachera – outrageously tender beef
Bistec – straight up beef, thin sliced steak
Carne asada – grilled steak, usually marinated in lime or orange juice
cecina - beef, thin sliced, salted, dried in the sun
Costillas - ribs
Tripa – pork intestines. Yes I tried them, no I was not a fan.
Lengua – tongue.
Suadero – thin strips of breast bone meat
Sesos - brains
Machaca – powdered meat. Sounds nasty, but it’s delicious with eggs. Think more like crumbled beef jerky.


Pollo - chicken
Pierna - thigh
Pechuga – chicken breast
Pavo – turkey
Pato – duck

Sausage of indeterminate animal origin

Salchicha – sausage, more like a hot dog
Chorizo – Mexican sausage, crumbly and tasty, also comes in a bright green form which honestly freaks me out.
Loganiza – chorizo, but different, apparently. Even my Mexican friends were a little hard-pressed to pin down the difference, so we grabbed a waiter whose theory was one has more fat, if that is actually possible.


Borrego – ram
Cabra/cabritos – goat
Conejo - rabbit
Médula – marrow
Cochinita de pibil – a Yucatecan specialty of shredded pork with some delectable chile sauce
Adobado – cooked in a chile sauce
Con mole – with a more complex sauce, either made of chiles, chocolate and peanuts, or a green mole with green chiles and garlic and who knows what else
Guisado – a general word for a meat cooked in sauce
A la parilla/asada – grilled
Alambre – a heap of bits of meat, bacon, veggie and cheese

Okay, ya basta. This could go on forever, apparently. I'm starting to feel like Aristotle when he decided to classify the entire plant and animal kingdoms.

And coming as soon as I figure it all out - the ultimate Mexican guide to seafood! Including how to order sushi in Mexico (queso filadelfia, chipotle and salsa tampico anyone?)

Want more? This woman seems quite dedicated to the study of tacos.