We’ll start this blog with this simple (but potentially dangerous) Spanish word: “coger“.
This verb is very common in the Spanish-speaking world and it can generally be translated as “to take“. So if you want to say something like “where can I take a taxi?”, it seems that you can simply resort to a phrase like “¿dónde puedo coger un taxi?“
And yes, that’s just fine. That looks pretty innocent, right? But be careful. As we say in Spanish, las apariencias engañan (appearances can be deceptive).
This meaning of “taking” or “catching” can be found mainly in Spain, and in some parts of Latin America, like Colombia. However, this innocent-looking word means something totally different in español rioplatense, as well as in some other varieties of Spanish. Its one and only meaning in Rioplatense Spanish is “to have sex/to fuck”.
Therefore, if you’ve studied the European variety of Spanish (español peninsular o ibérico), you will have to pay special attention to the way you use this word in the River Plate area. Imagine everything you can take, carry, catch or pick up in your everyday life. Now imagine yourself having sex with all those things. Well, don’t blame me! That’s exactly what comes to the mind of any rioplatófono when we hear people use this word, because that’s its only meaning for us. Of course we understand the original meaning intended, but the verb “coger” is just never ever used that way here.
- So what do you guys say instead?
There are many words in español rioplatense which can replace “coger” in this sense of “taking” or “grabbing”. The most common ones are probably the verbs “agarrar” and “tomar“.
For example, in castellano rioplatense, a question like “¿Dónde puedo coger un taxi?” actually becomes “¿Dónde puedo tomar un taxi?“. We never grab or “cogemos” a slice of pizza, but “la agarramos“. If we catch a cold, instead of saying “coger un resfriado“, we normally say “agarrarse un resfrío“. An expression like “coger un chiste” (to understand a joke) can be “cazar un chiste“. And the list of examples could go on and on forever.
So if you need to use the word “coger“, my advice to you is to make sure first that this verb is actually used the way you want to use it by the local community around you. Just ask for the meaning of the word before using it, and you’ll avoid all the possible laughs and jokes… Or don’t ask anything. Risk it. And if it makes people laugh, just laugh with them! 😉