[#013] Re panchos

A couple of weeks ago, a new friend of mine visited Luján (a small city in the province of Buenos Aires) and took a picture of a fast-food restaurant with an interesting name. Have a look at the photo and pay attention to the sign of the shop.

Re pancho

Any idea of what the meaning behind “RE PANCHOS” could be? If you’ve been reading the previous entries of this blog, you’ll probably remember we’ve already discussed the use of “re“. Now, “pancho” might be a new word to you. We’ll start by saying that it means “hot-dog”. You might have guessed that from the picture, though. But what do these two words mean combined?

If you don’t know/remember the meaning of “re“, you can check it out here, but in a nutshell, we can translate this tiny word as “very” or “really”. It is normally used before adjectives and it works as an intensifier. However, it can also modify nouns and in such cases we cannot, of course, translate it simply as “very”. After all, what would a “very hot-dog” mean, right?

When this particle “re” modifies a noun, it turns the noun into a superlative form. It conveys the idea of a highest/lowest degree or the best/worst quality of something.

    Una re depresión
    The worst depression ever

    Una re fiesta
    The best party ever

    Re panchos
    The best hot-dogs ever

The interesting thing about this use of “re + noun” is that the process of construction of meaning can get very creative. These panchos could be re panchos for several different reasons. Maybe they are super tasty, or maybe they are super large, or maybe you can add lots of different toppings to them. Similarly, if you tell someone that you just got a new job, but not just any ordinary job, sino un re trabajo, that could be a very well-paid job, or maybe a job that requires very little effort or time, or maybe a job that implies doing something special to which not many people have access (like interviewing celebrities or something of the sort). The actual specific meaning will always depend on the context.

  • “Best hot-dogs ever”, then. Is that all?

I’m afraid not. There is more to discuss here, as the word “pancho” can have other meanings, too. In castellano rioplatense, we can also use this word in informal contexts to describe people or animals. Someone described as “pancho” can be “calm”, “relaxed” or even “lazy”; someone who enjoys lying around and doing nothing.

    Estoy re pancho, mirando una peli en la cama.
    I’m very relaxed, watching a movie in bed.

    ¿Tu gato duerme todo el día? ¡Qué pancho!
    Your cat sleeps all day? He’s such a lazybones!

It can also be used to describe someone who doesn’t easily get annoyed or bothered, someone who never gets worried or doesn’t care much about things. So if you know people who never lose their temper, they could be good examples of “panchos“.

    Juan es un pancho. Aunque lo insultes, no te va a responder.
    Juan never loses his temper. Even if you insult him, he won’t answer back.

Another possible use of the word “pancho” is to refer to people who are not very smart or who are so innocent that they can’t read between the lines.

    Es re pancho, no se da cuenta de que querés dejarlo.
    He’s so dumb, he doesn’t realize you want to break up with him.

And last (I promise!) but not least, “Pancho” is also a very common nickname for the name “Francisco” and, well, for lazy pets, too! I once met a dog named Pancha, who (needless to say) was sleeping all the time!

Anyway, as you can see, there are lots of meanings attached to this word. Can you imagine Pancho re pancho comiendo panchos? But going back to the beginning, what do you think the name of the hot-dog place means then? I guess the most evident meaning in this case would be “best hot-dogs ever”, but at the same time it seems to be a good strategy to add this idea of going to this place to chill out and relax while eating something. Just forget about your problems and enjoy your hot-dogs!

Let’s see if you can now spot all these different meanings we’ve discussed in the following set of pictures. I know you can! 😉


[#012] Esss lo misssmo

If you ask rioplatófonos what’s wrong with their S’s, they’ll probably have no idea what you are talking about. But even if you feel that they are sometimes not pronouncing their S’s at all, they will surely tell you that they are.

Who’s right, then? I’d say both. Let us see why on this entry!

First of all, we need to point out that in Rioplatense Spanish the only kind of “s” sound that you will hear is just like the sound in the word, well, “sound”. What I mean is that, no matter how a word is spelled (“casa“, “decir“, “zapato“), it will always be pronounced with the same kind of “s” sound. This shows a big difference with some other Spanish varieties (found in some parts of Spain, for instance), where letters “c” and “z” are pronounced as a “th” sound (as in the English word “thanks”).

Now, this specific /s/ sound can be pronounced in mainly two different ways: what we’ll informally call the full form (a clear definite /s/ sound) and the aspirated form (a weaker kind of /s/ sound, which is very close to the English /h/ sound).


The full form usually appears when the sound that comes after /s/ is a vowel. This means that we find this kind of strong /s/ in the initial examples of “casa“, “decir” and “zapato“. However, when the sound coming right after /s/ is not a vowel, but a consonant, rioplatófonos produce the aspirated version instead. Look at the following words and constructions:

    Las calles
    Es lo mismo

In castellano rioplatense, those examples are pronounced with the softer aspirated version of /s/, that is to say, the one that sounds close to /h/. This is not an exclusive feature of the Rioplatense Spanish, though. We can also find this in other Spanish varieties, such as the ones spoken in Chile, Peru and some southern areas of Spain.

As you can see, it is not really hard to tell when to use each kind of /s/, but I’d like to share a video anyway, so that you can actually hear the two versions. In this video, then, you’ll see two people from Peru pronouncing a list of words which include the letter “s” followed by a consonant. These guys seem to be teaching future radio announcers how to speak “properly” and their advice is to always pronounce a clear /s/, in all linguistic contexts. Yet, when the girl is speaking casually, well, she uses the aspirated version from time to time. Look at the video and I’ll point out some phrases below where the aspirated /s/ can be heard.

0:19: ¿Qué tal? Mucho gusto.
1:15: Justamente ahora en este clima.
1:45: Después. Después nos vemos.
2:01: ¿Qué te despacho?
3:40: Muy usada por los bancos ahora.
4:45: Sobretodo en palabras que muy rutinariamente usamos.
4:49: Tienes razón.
4:53: Nos comemos la “s”.

By the way, it is interesting that the man in the video shows the “wrong” or not recommended pronunciation from time to time, but when he does it, he is simply omitting the /s/ altogether, leaving no trace of it behind. That does sound “wrong” in the Rioplatense variety, but that is not what rioplatófonos normally do. They do pronounce the sound, but in its aspirated version. This is why rioplatófonos will surely be convinced that they are pronouncing it, although foreigners will notice the difference.

So both are right! You are right if you can’t hear those full S’s in some words. And rioplatófonos are right, too. Nothing is wrong with their S’s. Some of them just sound a little different.

  • And how should I pronounce my S’s then?

You can pronounce your S’s using either of the two forms I mentioned before. If you always use the full form, it’s alright. In Colombia and Mexico, for example, many people speak like that. Just remember that it is not what you will normally hear around in the River Plate area. And no, it is not wrong to use the aspirated version, as long as it’s done in the right contexts (i.e. before consonants). The guy in the video seems to indicate otherwise, but remember he’s just giving that advice to radio announcers. We may agree or disagree with that, and we could discuss whether radio announcers should sound different from ordinary speakers, but that’s not the point of this entry, of course.

Well, I tried to keep it short and simple. I hope that it’s all clear and that this blog entry will help you understand rioplatófonos more easily now! 😉