13 Sayings that only Argentines Will Understand
by Daniel Tunnard
1. Más pesado que un collar de sandías
While Argentine society is considerably more tolerant than other countries when it comes to endemic corruption, loud neighbours or shit driving, most Argentines draw the line at el pesado, a ballbreaker, a bore, a mithe. Pesadoliterally means “heavy”, and what could be heavier than a watermelon necklace? Literally nothing.
2. Ta fresco pa chomba
Argentines, especially porteños, have no tolerance for temperatures under 25C, and have lots of phrases about how cold it is, even though it isn’t. The literal English translation “it’s a bit chilly for a polo shirt” shifts the register up a couple of social classes, but in a nation where everyone plays polo from birth, the polo shirt is actually the symbol of the common man, like a Yorkshireman’s cloth cap or iPod.
3. Vos querés la chancha, los veinte, y la máquina de hacer chorizos
The equivalent of “you want to have your cake and eat it”, which has always struck the present author as a stupid saying (the English one) because most people who have cake have justified intentions re: eating. On the other hand, if one were to have a sow and twenty piglets, this might keep one busy enough to keep any sausage machine pretentions at bay, for the time being.
4. Con quince peso me hago alto guiso
An Argentine saying of more recent vintage, after a Youtube video went viral of a football supporter complaining about the price of hamburgers at the stadium, claiming that for the same price (either US$1 or US$1.80, depending on your politics) he could make quite the stew. The six-second video went viral, and for about three months was trotted out in any food-pricing and/or stew-making situation. The saying lives on, despite rampant inflation putting paid to any $15 stew fantasies.
5. Tampoco es la vaca del corso
It is well known that while the British celebrate the onset of Lent by eating pancakes, other cultures have far more fun. This sadly isn’t the case in Argentina, where carnaval consists of young people in stupid hats doing stupid dancing parades down your street with stupid music so loud you crave the simplicity of Pancake Day. This parade is known as a corso, which traditionally was led by a prize cow (though no porteños I asked were familiar with this phrase; it’s probably from Entre Ríos, where you can’t walk down the street for stray livestock). So when someone thinks something is really good, like say, carnaval, and you’re not all that impressed, you say “It’s hardly the carnival cow”.
6. Si yo digo que es carnaval, vos apretá el pomo
More carny talk. “El pomo” is the aerosol foam that Argentine kids, God love ‘em, spray at innocent bystanders, when they should be sweeping chimneys like useful children. The original pomo, for you carnaval pedants, was a tube of carnaval gunge, hence the squeezing. (NEVER SQUEEZE AN AEROSOL KIDS, NOT EVEN IN ARGENTINA). So “If I say it’s carnival, you squeeze the foam aerosol thingy” is basically a colourful way of saying “If say something’s this way, trust me”.
7. Tiene más mentiras que el truco
Some would argue that a card game consisting of sitting around doing nothing but lying, would be the ideal card game for Argentines. You’ll get no such prejudice from this author, only to say that a lot of Argentines really enjoy playing truco, hence the popularity of the phrase “he has more lies than truco”.
8. Me chupa un huevo
Like the English counterpart “I don’t give a x”, Argentines have many phrases for expressing their indifference and apathy, including not giving a cumin (me importa un comino), or an amaranth (me importa un bledo). No one knows how we got from that kind of thing to “It sucks one of my testicles”, but we did.
9. Mas caliente que china en baile
Argentines are always thinking about sex, and when they’re not thinking about sex they’re talking about how someone else is always thinking about sex, which is pretty much the same thing. If someone is described as “hornier than a gaucho (NB: not Chinese) girl at a dance”, it’s fair to say they’ll probably be chupando on someone’s huevos soon, and not in an indifferent way.
10. Cualquier bondi le deja bien
You’d think that if someone had the good fortune of finding that all buses took them where they wanted to go, this would be a good thing, like living in Plaza Italia, say, or Villa 31. Sadly, this saying carries more of a sense of “any port in a storm”, i.e., to put it politely, you’re not fussy about who you sleep with.
11. Dios está en todas partes pero atiende en Buenos Aires
Roughly translates as “God is everywhere but his office is in Buenos Aires”, meaning that no matter what you need to do, you have to go to Buenos Aires to do it, whether it’s a complicated surgical procedure, legal matters, or any other trámite, which is an Argentine word for procedures automatic in the rest of the world but which take a whole two days of your life to perform here. As long as here is Buenos Aires. FACT: Before 1983, you even had to go to Buenos Aires to give birth.
12. Es lo que hay
A brilliantly versatile phrase for dismissing anyone’s pretentious claims: “It’s what there is.” As in “The header promised 13 sayings that only Argentines understand, but there were only 12.” “Eh, es lo que hay.”
Lead image by Eduardo Amorim.