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“¿Che, como andás?”


Argentines, especially those from the BsAs area, have a very distinctive dialect of Spanish called porteño. Instead of the usual informal tu in the second person, as in tu comes mucho (“you eat a lot”), they have vos, as in vos comés mucho. The form of the verb and the pronunciation are slightly different from the tu. You can address pretty much everyone using the familiar vos unless they’re a clear superior in status or an older person you don’t know very well. Besides this main difference, there are a lot of slang words floating around that come from lunfardo, a mixture of Spanish and Italian that developed among the immigrant communities of Buenos Aires. All this mixing and matching makes for some interesting conversations. Not all of the words on this list are exclusively Argentine; they’re just some good examples I’ve picked up so far.

The highlights:

che: A way of addressing a friend or getting someone’s attention (“Che, podés pasarme el sal?”)

boludo: Very familiar term used when addressing a friend or close family member. More or less translates to “idiot” or “a**hole”…but, you know, in a friendly way (“Por favor, boludo, no digas tonterías”). Can also be a straight-up insult if said in anger.

¿Como andás?: “How are you doing?” Usually followed by the standard Argentine kiss-on-the-cheek greeting. (Advanced Argentine Spanish maneuver: “Che boludo, como andás?”)

re: very. Means the same as muy. (“Este libro es re aburrido; no lo quiero leer.”)

mate: traditional strong herbal drink; the name for both the prepared beverage and the cup itself (the cups are usually made from wood or from hollowed-out gourds and have a very distinctive look)

yerba/yerba mate: the herb used to make mate

bombilla: filtered metal straw for drinking mate

mate and bombilla

carne: beef

lechón: pork

fiambres: cold cuts

parilla: grill

restorán: restaurant

asado: beef, chicken, or pork slow-cooked on the parilla. Unbelievably good. And yes, half the words on this list relate to food. I need to exercise more…

carta: (at a restaurant) menu

menú: the restaurant’s special for the day (One time a W&M friend and I asked for two “menus” and to our surprise, two plates of food we had no interest in eating came out 10 minutes later. Whoops.)

confitería: bakery

facturas: pastries

medialuna: a common pastry snack and breakfast item, basically a sweeter version of a croissant

micro: bus

combi: van

cerrajería: locksmith (for some reason I haven’t yet figured out, it seems like there are a ton in La Plata)

boliche: dance club, disco

pileta: sink or pool

mina: woman. Most often used by men when talking about women. Considered impolite when talking TO women. (“Mirá esa mina! ¡Qué linda!”)

tipo / pibe: dude, guy / kid

chamuyero/a: smooth talker, charmer (often used in a mocking way to describe men trying to pick up women or vice-versa)

bárbaro: an exclamation or interjection that means “awesome!” or “that’s great!” (“Me divertí mucho en las vacaciones.” “¡Bárbaro para vos!”)

trucho: counterfeit, fake

bichos: bugs

grasa: technically this word means fat, as in the physical substance found in food; used by young Argentines as an adjective to describe something cheesy, stupid, or very uncool

putear: to swear, curse

“La noche está en pañales”: “The night is young” (see above: boliche)

And finally, an important traveler’s note on a word you should NOT say in Argentina: the verb coger, a common word in many Spanish-speaking countries that means “to take,” “to pick up,” or “to catch,” is extremely offensive here. Even angry, foulmouthed fútbol fans don’t use it. Use agarrar or sacar instead. Interestingly, compounds of coger (recoger, escoger) are still fine.

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