[#022] ¡No a los cohetes al cohete!

We are getting closer to the end of 2014 and things are about to get noisy. I’m talking about fireworks. Today we’ll discuss the word “cohete” and how it can be used in the River Plate area.

I have recently come across a Facebook page called “Elba, la paloma cardíaca“, where we can basically see a pigeon, named Elba, that is against the use of fireworks as they affect animals negatively. The phrase “la paloma cardíaca” actually implies that Elba can suffer from a heart attack, as a result of loud explosions. This is what the cover of the page looks like:

no a los cohetes al cohete

Are you familiar with the word “cohete“? It has two basic and general meanings: “fireworks” and “rocket”. But there is definitely more to it, as we shall see on this entry.

The first interesting thing about this word is that not many people pronounce it like that. In fact, you may easily come across a different spelling for this word: “cuete“. It seems that pronouncing two “open vowels” (vocales abiertas: a, e, o) is more difficult than producing a combination of a “closed vowel” (vocal cerrada: i, u) and an open one. So, many people tend to say “cuete“, as it is easier to glide from a “u” to an “e”, from the point of view of articulation. Likewise, words like “almohada” or “héroe” sometimes come out more like /almuada/ and /erue/, but these have not acquired a new spelling, at least for now!

But let’s go back to the meaning now. The word “cohete” or “cuete” can also have another meaning in the River Plate area. Just like the word “pedo“, “cuete” can mean “fart”, and I’m sure you can imagine why. In this sense, in general, the word “cuete” has an affective component and is normally considered less rude or vulgar: it’s the kind of word you would use while talking to a child, for instance. But of course, it very much depends on the context and how you use it. In a formal situation, you would probably resort to words like “gas” or “flatulencia“… Or you would simply avoid the topic, of course. 😉

Now that you are an expert on the pronunciation, meanings and uses of the word “cohete“, let’s have a look at the title of this entry: ¡No a los cohetes al cohete! (Say NO to pointless fireworks!)

As you can see, the informal expression “al cohete” has a special meaning. “Hacer algo al cuete” or also “hacer algo al pedo” means “to do something pointlessly or in vain”. Something done in this way is surely not worth it, unnecessary or a waste of time. Suppose you decide to surprise one of your friends by showing up at their place without letting them know in advance. So you get there and you find out that they are not at home. In that case, you can say “¡Vine al pedo/cuete!” (I came here in vain).

Let’s now have a look at one of the images posted on the page Elba, la paloma cardíaca:


Let’s look at the bottom line first, where the word “cohete” appears twice. A rough translation would be: “Do not use fireworks, which cause nothing but noise. They are very dangerous, dogs and birds suffer a lot [from them] and you waste money pointlessly.” Yes, the word “plata” does not only mean “silver”, but also “dinero” (“money”) in the River Plate area. This is not slang, though; just a common word to refer to money.

And what about the actual message uttered by Elba? She starts by saying: “Come on, cheapskate!”. Of course, the word “ratón” means “mouse”. But when the words “ratón” or “rata” are used colloquially to refer to a person, they mean “stingy”.

And then, Elba adds: “You buy the cheapest nougat candy at the Chinese market, but you spend your end-of-year bonus on fireworks.” Here, the word “berreta” means “cheapest” or “lowest quality” and it is slang, so it is used only in informal contexts. Then, the word “chino“, apart from referring to a nationality, is used by some people to imply “Chinese market”.

Anyway, I hope the terms discussed here were new for you! Otherwise, this entry would have been “al pedo” or “al cuete“. 🙂


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