Saturday, February 8, 2014

Colombian Gold

photo credit: Nino.Modugno">Nino.Modugno
> via photopin">photopin> cc">cc>

Growing up raised by my Colombian grandmother, not only did I learn to speak Spanish but I learned the idioms that come along with being a native speaker. The expression "loses a bit in translation" becomes glaringly apparent when a native speaker tries to explain a colloquialism to a book-taught speaker of Spanish.

The literal translation of these quaint sayings is golden. As wonderful as trying to explain "pull someone’s leg" to a non-native speaker of the English language. There are hundreds of expressions that I heard while growing up, and when I sat down to write them, it was hard to stop.

So much Colombian gold, but the ones I’ve culled here are the best.

Colombianisms, for when you find yourself, sitting next to a Colombian:

--Me gusto mi chocolate espeso — "I like my chocolate thick," said about a *lively* to-the-limit style about anything. Chocolate is expensive and thick chocolate is pure luxury. Apply the thick chocolate premise to my shopping style, making the words here mean “I like my shoes expensive.” But I'm sure these words would work just as well while watching Pitbull.

--Con mucho gusto — Said after every introduction, or interaction. It means With much pleasure! Think how much nicer our world would be if every time we had anything to do with anybody, we always ended it with “With much pleasure!” This is especially nice, because one says it, whether you mean it or not. Even through gritted teeth.

--Y quien pidio el pollo? — Literally, “and who ordered the chicken?” A delicious thing to say after someone gets in trouble from their own doing. You go out with that less than desirable character, and your heart is broken, so you run home crying to your mother who has been waiting her entire life to say, “and who ordered the chicken?”

--Sentir fiero — You say this when you are on fire! to do something. Meaning: “I feel the fire to do this!” The Spanish are so gusto grabbing. As for me, I'm hoping to someday sentir fiero! to clean this house.

--Con hambre, no hay pan duro — I say this to my kids when they are less than pleased with my mid-week refrigerator dump dinners. It means, “With hunger, there is no bread too hard.” Hard bread aka my zuchini squash summer salad.

--Ni amarrado! — A handy little phrase. Meaning: “not even if I was hog tied!” Two words, and how it packs a wallop when that mean old thing from a few blocks away invites you to her Pampered Chef party.

--Que mas pues! — After a morning of people rushing into parking spots while you're in the midst of heading for them yourself, followed by a two hour put on hold phone call to your insurance company that eats up your afternoon, you suddenly remember that you need to take flowers to your school's open house that night, so you rush to the grocery story with 10 minutes left and someone with just a touch quicker than you reflexes grabs that last carnation bunch that you needed. You look up and shout to the universe, “and what else? What else?!” Dramatic? Yes, these are Colombianisms.

--Duerme mas que gato con anemia — Oh, how I love this one. Literally, “she sleeps more than a cat with anemia.” My mother used to say this about my brother's girlfriend. If my mother were alive today, she'd still be saying it.

--Mas duro que mordisco de loco — “That was harder than a bite from a crazy man.” Pull this charmer out at the next PTA meeting.

--Entonces? — This is, oh... Only The Best Way To Answer a Phone Ev-Er. The words actually mean “And so…?” So lovely, cuts to the chase, efficient and practical.

There you have it, my Top Ten Colombianisms. Use them in the best way I know how: with a good, loud fake phone call while you wait outside at school pick up time. Give the gaggling hens around you something to cluck about. And doesn't that one over there look worse than a cat with anemia?

*Blog Bonus: pronunciation guide below:

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 Other Places You Can Find Me This Week:

Huffington Post

Aiming Low

MetroParent Milwaukee

Purple Clover


  1. haha. i like my chocolate thick as well...smiles.
    i am totally using the crazy man line...hopefully not when i have my mouth full...

  2. B, you're so funny. Sending you an email about something.

  3. And who ordered the chicken and no bread too hard! Fantastic!

  4. Oh, these are wonderful! Reminds me of a lot of yiddishisms. Particularly that last - we just say, "Nu?" I am definitely going to use the "And who bought the chicken?" first chance I get.

    Also, English does have an equivalent for the hard bread one - "Hunger is the best sauce."

  5. Whoops - I mean, ORDERED the chicken...sorry!

  6. These will come in handy. Especially in the office. I can really see Que mas pues coming into play every day.

  7. Perfect. I'll add them to my Albanianisms and people won't know what they hell I'm talking about. Just like I planned.


  8. I've been feeling like a cat with anemia of late! Quite a rich language - makes me feel bad for poor English!

  9. I like "And who ordered the chicken?" so much!

  10. Ni amarrado! I like that one! Especially when invited to the Pampered Chef party. I love the drama of the Colombianisms.

  11. "Me gusto mi chocolate espeso." <That sounds so lovely to my ears. I love that you have a pronunciation guide here as well. Such a beautiful language...

  12. I'm totally using "ni amarrado" the next time our Spanish-speaking friends try to convince me to attend a soccer game with them. Or any sporting event, for that matter.



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