Which is the Spanish word in the River Plate area that means both nothing and everything at the same time? Any clue? Look at the following picture:
Yes, today’s word is “coso“. Of course, nothing in the room in the previous picture is actually called “coso“, yet everything could be referred to using that word!
This word sure looks like the masculine form of the word “cosa” (“thing”), but it doesn’t work just like that. It is mainly used in the following special situations: when there is something that doesn’t have a clear name, or when you don’t know/remember the name of something in particular. And that is precisely why this word can be very useful to learners of Spanish, too!
A typical example of something that is usually referred to with this word in Spanish is the pizza saver: that thingy that prevents the cheese from sticking to the pizza box.
If you do some research online, you will see that some people say it is (or should be) called “guardapizzas” or “trípode“, but I assure you that calling it just “el cosito de la pizza” is way more common! To us it’s just “that little thingy on the pizza”, you know?
But as I said before, a “coso” doesn’t necessarily have to be something that doesn’t have a clear name. Suppose you see something in the distance and you have no clue what that could be. In that case, you could tell someone: “¡Mirá ese coso! ¿Qué será?” (Look at that! What could it be?)
Or suppose you’re talking about a very common object or simple thing, but you just can’t remember the word for it at the moment: “Pasame el coso… Ese coso. ¿Cómo se llama? No me sale. ¡Ay, el sacacorcho!” (Give me that thingy… That one. What’s it called? I can’t remember. Oh, the corkscrew!)
What’s more, “coso” can even replace the name of a person: “Anoche vi a… Coso. Tu amigo. ¿Cómo se llama? El de rulos.” (Yesterday night I saw… Hmm, your friend. What’s his name? The one with curly hair.)
You may also come across this word if you go to a ferretería or hardware store. Look at the following picture:
Apparently, when we go to ferreterías to buy something, we don’t always know/remember the right name for that thingy we need (nut? screw? bolt? washer?) that goes attached to the other thingy… And so we resort to our multifaceted friend, “el coso“!
And last, but not least, “coso” may also be used as a muletilla or filler word, very much like “so” or “well”, but only in very informal contexts. In these cases it refers to nothing in particular; it just helps us connect different utterances or start a new one.
Bueno, coso… 😉 To bring this entry to an end, let’s now have a look at the following comic strip:
“Buenas” is an informal way to greet someone and it can be used at any time of the day, and “botón” doesn’t mean “button” in this context. In Rioplatense Spanish, someone who is referred to as “botón” is actually a tattletale, or just someone who discloses information that should not be revealed.
So, any clue what that thingy on the man’s head is? If you have no idea like me, no worries. You now know it can just be a “coso“!