Colombian-isms, from the Incomparable Empress

Good Day, Regular People
One of the first bloggers I started reading regularly was Alexandra Rosas, the self-styled empress of “Good Day, Regular People” who mines gold out of life as a multicultural mama in the great Midwest. Her humor and heart are matched only by her generosity to other bloggers. One of the “Voices of the Year” at BlogHer ’11, you can catch Alexandra next at BlogHer ’12 speaking on “Blogging for the Love of It.”  I’m so honored to introduce her here today as a Midlife Mixtape guest poster. With much pleasure!

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.

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  1. says

    What fun it was to write this post, Nancy. Thank you so much for the invite.

    I’ll be linking up here tomorrow, but wanted to thank you for having me.

    I have admired your writing for two years now, and followed you home from a comment you left at BlogHer.

    I’m proud to know you, and love what the internet has blessed me with: women I’ve never meet, like you, in my real life.

    See you at BlogHer I hope!!

    • says

      I loved this post, my friend. It reminded me of when I lived in Germany and had to learn all the idioms to blend in with the cool kids. I still say “I’ll press my thumbs!” instead of “I’ll cross my fingers!” and when I’m fed up I say, “My nose is FULL.”

  2. says

    Oh, reading these makes me miss my grandparents so, so much! My abuela uses “que mas pues!” with stunning regularity. And my abuelo (who was one of the people I was closest to in this world, and who passed away nearly four years ago) *always* said “con mucho gusto” or some other equally friendly expression whenever he encountered someone.

  3. says

    such passion in your language…i like it…i think i am going to use that ‘not even if pigs tie me up’ one…smiles….maybe i got a little lost in translation there…smiles…

  4. says

    It’s always so difficult to explain colloquialisms – no one understands them with the fervor they are delivered in your native language.

    I’ve also found that I take idioms and translate them to English – I say, “Open the light” instead of “Turn on the light” or whatever it is you say in English.

    I can’t wait to put these into practice.

  5. says

    Empress, you really knocked this one out of the park :-)

    My favorite English expression to try to explain to others is “we’re out of bread.”

  6. says

    Loved these, Alexandra! These phrases are full of so much imagery and flavor! My Spanish is proficient but some of these Colombian-isms are very unique and I hadn’t come across them before, (although I’m quite fluent in Salvadoran-isms!) 😉

  7. says

    This is so funny!
    Dutch dialect has many such lovelies. For instance the answer to the ever present question ‘what’s for dinner’ is : ‘Abbernikskes met gebakken aap’ loosely translated as ‘allofnothing with baked monkey’.

  8. says

    I just saw a book called “why the world looks different in other languages” and should have bought it on the spot. Alas the suitcase is too full so I’ll look when I get home. I do love what these idioms reveal about different cultures…I think!

  9. says

    “Y quien pidio el pollo”, Ha! I just fell in love with this in Any Language. All the years I could of been saying this. Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait for the opportunity to use it : )

    Nice to “meet” your blog, as well, Nancy!

    • says

      I wish, dear lady, you could have heard my mother say it to me after madman (that was his nickname…red flags, anyone?) dumped me for my friend.

      NEVER ordering that chicken AGAIN.

      Thanks for stopping over. xo

  10. says

    When I used to work in the ER and was assigned to triage, do you know how many times I wanted to just say “And…so?” to people who felt the need to tell me their life story before they told me why they were in the ER.
    But I’m nice.
    And I didn’t.
    Because I cared.
    Ok, a lot of the time.
    But I wish I had the word Entonces…until I had a Colombian patient.

  11. Jessica says

    Ok, so I have a little bit of (very) rudimentary spanish from high school and college. So of course I was being cool and translating the phrases before reading the explanation. Until I got to the anemic cat. I tried and tried until I finally had to give up and read it in english. Then I died. Suddenly my children came running from all over the house hollering “WHAT is so funny?!”

    My mother’s family is all Canadian, so all I’ve got is “eh” and “sorry!”

  12. rootlesscosmo says

    That’s a great band! Thanks for the whole post.

    A Yiddishism: “gurnisht” ( cf. German “gar nichts”) is “absolutely nothing;” “bupkis mit gurnisht” is “little turds plus absolutely nothing.”

  13. says

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