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Latino Daily News

Thursday April 28, 2011

American Learns the Importance of Knowing Spanish Slang

American Learns the Importance of Knowing Spanish Slang

Photo: Santiago, Chile

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No matter which you speak, nearly all languages have their own slang. For one American starting a new life in Chile, it took some getting used to.

Fifteen years ago, Jared Romey moved to Chile from Maryland. He thought his many years of Spanish courses had prepared him enough for the move, but he underestimated the importance of knowing slang in every language.

Trying to immerse himself in the culture, he quickly discovered he understood none of what anyone was saying because slang was freely and frequently used.

“It was fast, different and full of odd slang. I was totally lost,” Romey told AOL News.

His saving grace would come to be the copy of “How to Survive the Chilean Jungle” a friend gave him. The book had been written just one year prior (1996) by John Brennan and Alvaro Toboada.

Romey shared his story and the slang words and phrases he with AOL. Below are some of them.

- A calzon quitado: “Literally, this translates into ‘taking off your underwear.’ In Chilean slang, this is an expression that means to get straight to the point; to hold nothing back.”

- Chupar: This word means “suck.” In slang, chupar refers to drinking copious amounts of alcoholic drinks

- Anda a lavarte el hoyo: This phrase translates into “go wash your hole,” which refers to your um…rear. In slang, this phrase is used to tell people to scram or go away.

- Andar con el dragon: Roughly translates into “being with the dragon.” Colloquially, it means you’re so hungover from drinking all night that your breath is kicking. You’re practically breathing fire, much like a dragon might.

- Hilo dental: This literally means “dental floss.” In slang, it refers to a woman’s tiny thong or G-string. American slang seems to follow the same thought.

- Pokemon: “No, not the little yellow anime cartoon. In Chile, a pokemon is the term given to alternative, edgy teenagers who dress in skater tennis shoes and baggy pants that are about to fall off. Pokemons usually sport long hair, lots of piercings and listen to Reggaeton music.”

- Tragarse un tony: This means to “swallow a clown.” In slang speak this actually means to die of laughter.

- Mas doblado que Chino con visitas: “Another Romey favorite. It translates into ‘more bent over than a Chinese man with visitors.’ In slang, it means you’re so drunk, you’re tipping over, much like a Chinese man bowing to visitors. ‘This one is hilarious,’ Romey said. ‘It really captures the Chilean spirit and the playfulness of the language.’”


Beware of thinking this jargon can be used in all Latin American countries however. Words like “bicho” for example. In Chile and Argentina it is used as a name for a bug or insect, but it Puerto Rico, it means penis.

Chile was his home for awhile, he now lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but has also spent time in Argentina, Bolivia, and Costa Rica.

These days, Romey sells haircare products internationally, but he has developed a database for all the Spanish slang he has learned over the years. (That can be found at SpeakingLatino.com) and he is also the author or “Speaking Boricua,”  “Speaking Argento,” and Speaking Chileno.”