Nancy has been covering Dad-isms, the charming ManSpeak of Dads, and Mom-isms, those sayings we grew up hearing our mothers say. It only felt natural to cover the -isms of my first language: Spanish, while guesting here. Languages are charming, being fluent in more than one language is impressive. Learning languages from a book or The Rosetta Stone is one thing, but growing up learning a language is something else entirely.
I grew up bilingual, raised by my Colombian grandmother. Not only did I learn to speak Spanish but I learned all 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 an idiom or colloquialism to an outsider.
The literal translation of these quaint sayings is pretty wonderful. As wonderful as trying to explain “pull someone’s leg” to a non-English speaker.
There are hundreds of expressions that I heard every day from my Abuela, and when I sat down and began typing up everything stored in my head, believe me, it was hard to stop. So much gold, but the ones I’ve culled here are the best.
Colombian-isms, my gift to you today. [Try to find a way to work them into your conversations, see if they don’t bring you an instant international estilo.]
Me gusto mi chocolate espeso — said about a *lively* shopping style. The words here mean “I like my chocolate thick” or “I like my shoes expensive.”
Con mucho gusto — said after every introduction, service exchanged, 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!”
Y quien pidio el pollo? — literally, “and who ordered the chicken?” A weird thing that is said after someone gets in trouble from their own doing. You go out with a bad bad boy and he breaks your heart and you run home crying to your mother who asks you, “and who ordered the chicken?” Charming.
Sentir fiero — you say this when you are on fire! to try something. Meaning: “I feel the fire to do this!” The Spanish are so gusto grabbing.
Con hambre, no hay pan duro — I use this with my kids, much to their severe dislike. “With hunger, there is no hard bread.” Hard bread aka my zuchini squash summer salad.
Ni amarrado! — a handy little phrase that means “not even if I was hog tied!” Two words, yet packs a wallop.
Que mas pues! — after someone takes that last carnation bunch that you also wanted at the market square, you ask them “and what else? What else are you going to do?!” Dramatic? Yes, we are Colombian.
Duerme mas que gato con anemia — oh, how I loved this one. Literally, “she sleeps more than a cat with anemia.” Beautiful, isn’t it?
Mas duro que mordisco de loco — “that was harder than a bite from a crazy man.” Pull that one out at the next PTA meeting, don’t you think?
Entonces? — this is, oh, Only The Best Way To Answer a Phone Ev-Er. Actually means “And so…?” So lovely, cuts to the chase, efficient and practical. (or is this just me because I hate the phone?)
There you have it, the top ten Colombian-isms from my youth.
Use them the best way I know how: with a pretend phone call while you wait at school pick up time. Give the gaggling hens something to cluck about.
And here’s a Colombian musical treat of Alexandra’s choosing, Pablo Mayor’s Colombian band Folklore Urbano. They definitely sleep less than a cat with anemia.
Alexandra is a first-generation American who writes memoir and humor for various writing websites. She posts on her blog Good Day, Regular People of life in a small town as the mother of three boys. Alexandra was named a 2011 BlogHer Voice of The Year/Humor and 2012 Most Interesting Blogger and Best Female Blogger by Studio30Plus, an online writing community. She proudly presented alongside Molly Ringwald as part of the nationally acclaimed The Moth Live Storyteller’s Tour, and not once asked her about the dress in Pretty in Pink.