Wednesday, August 11, 2010

los modismos

Why hello there. How is it going?
Or, in Chilean...Hola wn/a, que onda wn/a...

To break it down:
Wn o weon, is Chilean phonetic spelling for huevon which is huevo (meaning egg) + ón, the ending that they tack onto words to mean it’s big. And the significance of big eggs of course has the crudest of roots.

Like most Chilean slang its all how you say it. At times it’s a term of affection--dude, bro, pal, what have you. Or, with accompanying hand gestures, it means fucker. I've heard a Chileana comforting another girl about a guy who was a jerk with: "Que weon, weona", meaning, "What a fucker, dude(tte)." While they may not have a lot of words, what they have, they so frequently they could put frat boys to shame, brah.

Que onda means, quite literally, how are the vibes? There is a Physics class called Ondas. My host mom's shampoo promises Ondas Perfectas. People/Places/Things are categorized by their ondas. My friend was taking a class where he has to do a presentation on what he likes so the class could feel his ondas. He has since reluctantly dropped the class.

Surprisingly, slang is a great conversation starter. Every Chilean loves their slang, from my professors complaining about the ubiquitous filler word “po” to a punk kid I met in a squatter house who quizzed me rapid fire about the dirtiest words. I now carry around a notebook of slang and whenever I whip it out Chileans love to add. Of course, its not quite kosher.

Slang is also very revealing about a culture. Take the word flaite. It means “ghetto” but in the “sketchy” sense. Although American rap culture is here in full force it seems the concept of ghetto fabulous did not get imported. But, as my host mom said, every country has a word for flaite, just as every country has a group that has been so entrenched in poverty that it has created its own culture.

Here is the one that really blows my mind (though no for delicate readers): choro. This word is used like “pussy” but it also can apply to a hard gangsta. Lets just reflect on the implications of calling a male a pussy in the United States.

In closing, here is a sampling of Chilean slang:

palta-avocado (in sp., aguacate, very common here, more on that later)
al tiro-immediately
1,000 pesos-una luca
quemar el arroz-to be gay (literally, to burn the rice)
cuático-out there, weird
La picada-the BEST place
filete, la raja, polenta, bacan-cool (I’m waiting to learn the distinctions)

Upcoming topics: micros, completos and my classes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marina,
    Learning the slang and using it is definitely a way of getting immersed in the society. I have found that often the language one learns in a classroom is hardly sufficient in the actual country because it lacks the slang the people use in their daily life. It's interesting to hear how "choro" is used. Do women get upset about it or do people not really think about its meaning?

    I'd like to invite you to be a guest writer for, the first online community for women travelers.

    It would be great if you could post about your experience in Chile, providing anecdotes and photos from your time abroad. You might also want to provide tips for women travelers who want to get out there, as well.

    I look forward to hearing more about your experiences abroad!