[#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“. 🙂


[#021] This is Buenos Aires (II)

This time we will continue analyzing the video from our previous entry. We have already discussed some cultural aspects portrayed in this video, but we didn’t get to analyse all the typical rioplatense expressions that appear in it. So we’ll do that today. Here’s the video again:

So we did actually get to see some linguistic expressions last time, like “jamón del medio” or “la posta“. And we have also briefly discussed the meaning of “choripán“, “asado” and “bache“. But there are some other typical expressions that we can learn from this video as well. Two comments first:

At 1:46, there’s a short scene where Claudio tells Willy and Peter that if they need to wash their clothes, they can do it there at “Matilda wash”. He then tells Matilda, his mum, “Permiso, Matilda, open the way”, as he translates “abra el paso” literally into English. And here Matilda says “Chanta, hijo de puta” after realizing what his son is doing: making the guys from England believe that Matilda’s house is a hostel. Do you remember the meaning of “chanta“? We have already seen it on a previous entry. It means “lier” in castellano rioplatense.

At 2:33 Claudio tries to explain to his guests what a “subte” (subway/underground) is. If you listen to him carefully, you’ll notice how he pronounces the word “escuchá“. Do you remember what we’ve said about the aspiration of letter “s” before another consonant? You can barely listen to his /s/ here. You can find another clear instance of this aspiration of the /s/ sound at 3:13 (“estuve nueve meses estudiando inglés…” and “a mí me chupa un huevo lo que estuviste estudiando“).

Alright, let’s now look more closely at this dialogue between Claudio and his mother and sister (2:50), and concentrate on the new expressions. I’ll add an aproximate translation afterwards.

    —Te tendrías que haber casado con Luis vos, que era un tipo sano, fuerte, trabajador…
    —Era un plomo, mamá, Luis. Era un plomo.
    —¿Qué querés tener al lado? ¿Un payaso que te haga reír todo el tiempo?
    —Sacá de acá- Salí de acá, Claudio.
    —El mate, necesito el mate. Peter quiere tomar mate.
    —Bueno, escuchame una cosa, que mamá está muy enojada, muy enojada, porque no entiende por qué estás haciendo esto.
    —Me sorprende que vos no me estés bancando en esta. Yo me preparé, ¡me preparé! Estuve nueve meses estudiando inglés.
    —A mí me chupa un huevo lo que estuviste estudiando. Me metiste dos ingleses en mi casa. ¡No tenés patria vos, Claudio! No te importa nada. Aparte, yo los escucho a la noche, Claudio. ¡Son homosexuales, Claudio! ¡Son homosexuales!
    —Son avanzados, se visten así. En el primer mundo son así. ¡Abrí la mente, prejuiciosa!
    —¡Yo no tengo ninguna mente que abrir, Claudio, eh!
    —Prometenos que es la última vez que hacés esto y ya está. Y listo, solucionado el problema, ¿o no, ma? ¿O no, ma?
    —Quizás es la última vez que me ven a mí también… Quizás.
    —Dejalo que se vaya… Pero que deje las plantitas.

    —You should have married Luis; he was a sound, strong and hard-working guy…
    —Luis was unbearable, mum. He was a bore.
    —Who do you want by your side? A clown who’ll make you life all the time?
    —Excuse me…
    —Get the- Get out of here, Claudio.
    —The mate, I need the mate. Peter wants to drink mate.
    —Well, listen to me, mum is very angry, very angry, because she doesn’t understand why you’re doing this.
    —I can’t believe that you are not supporting me here. I prepared myself. I prepared myself! I’ve been studying English for nine months.
    —I don’t give a fuck about what you’ve been studying. You brought two Englishmen to my home. You have no love for your country, Claudio! You don’t care at all. Besides, I listen to them at night, Claudio. They are homosexuals, Claudio! They are homosexuals!
    —They are progressive, they dress like that. People are like that in the first world. Open your mind, you prejudiced woman!
    —I don’t have have to open my mind at all, Claudio!
    —Promise us that this is the last time you do this, and that’s it. Problem solved; right, mum? Right, mum?
    —Maybe this is also the last time you see me… Maybe.
    —Let him go… But he should leave the “plants” here.

The first expression from this dialogue that we can comment upon is the word “plomo“, which means literally “lead” (as in the metal). But when rioplatófonos use this word to describe someone, it means that that person is really dull and boring. We can also use the word “pesado” (heavy) or “denso” (dense) to convey the same idea. In addition, “ser un plomo” can also imply being annoying or a pain in the neck.

So in this case, Claudia describes Luis as a really boring person (¡un plomo!) and that is why her mother asks her if she wants to have a clown by her side, i.e. someone who will make her laugh all the time.


The second word we’ll have a look at is the verb “bancar (a alguien)“. This verb can have several different meanings. In this context, Claudio is telling his sister that he is surprised she isn’t supporting him, helping him, backing him up: me sorprende que vos no me estés bancando en esta. In a different context, this verb could mean “to support financially”, and also “to bear, tolerate or stand” (as in “bancar a un plomo” or “to put up with a bore”). What’s more, this expression can be used as a synonym of “wait” or “hang in there” as well (e.g. “bancá un minuto“). And the expression “bancársela” could be translated as “to be brave enough to face/endure a tough situation”. Hmm, I guess we’ll have to devote a special entry to this verb in the future, so you can see more examples of how it can be used!

The last expression we are going to discuss from this dialogue is “me chupa un huevo“. When rioplatófonos say that something “les chupa un huevo“, they mean that they don’t care about that thing at all… but in a very vulgar way. A good translation for this would probably be “I don’t give a fuck/damn about that”. And its literal translation would be “(something) sucks one of my eggs” (“eggs” referring to “testicles” here), so yeah, it’s definitely a vulgar expression and you should be careful with how you use it. And as you can see from this video, women can use it too.

Me chupa un huevo

Here’s the second dialogue in Spanish from the video (4:55):

    —¡Claudio, esta gente está enferma! Está volando de fiebre este tipo… Y vos también. Mirá cómo están. A ver, correte… ¡Claudia, traé un balde que van a vomitar todo! Ahh, pobrecito…
    —Hay que llevarlos a la Embajada, que se mueran ahí, mamá.
    —Vos no tenés corazón. Por eso estás con ese payaso. Pobre gente. Yo los voy a cuidar, se van a quedar una semana acá en casa. Esto es todo mío. ¿Sí? Quédense tranquilos que se van a poner bien. ¿Sí?

    —Yeah, I feel I’m dying over here…
    —No pasa nada, bebé. Va a estar todo bien. A mí me gustaría conocer Inglaterra también.
    —¡Pero mamá, vos odiás a los ingleses!
    —Dejame, que estoy hablando con la gente tranquila… Yo quiero ir allá. A mí no me preocupa que ustedes sean homosexuales. A mí me gustan también las cosas por el culo: es lindo.

    —Claudio, these people are sick! This guys is running a fever… And you too. Look at you. Let’s see, move aside a bit… Claudia, bring a bucket, they are going to throw it all up! Aww, poor boy…
    —We have to take them to the Embassy and let them die there, mum.
    —You have no heart! That’s why you’re dating that “clown”. Poor guys. I’m going to take care of you, you’ll stay here for a week. This house is all mine, ok? Don’t worry, you’ll get better, ok?
    —Yeah, I feel I’m dying over here…
    —There’s nothing to worry about, dear. Everything will be alright. I would like to visit England, too.
    —But you hate people from England, mum!
    —Let me talk with these guys on my own… I want to go there. I don’t mind that you are gay. I also like it form behind: it’s nice.
    —Let me (talk with them).

From this second part, we’ll just look at the verb “correrse“. Of course, the verb “correr” can be used in the sense of “running” or “moving at a high speed”, but it can also be used as a transitive verb (requiring a direct object) in the sense of “moving something from one place to another“. So if you want to say something like “move the chair”, you can then say “corré (vos) la silla“, and nobody will think that they have to go running after it. Now, if what needs to be moved is oneself, then we can use this verb reflexively, which takes us back to “correrse“.

    Dame un segundo y me corro.
    Give me a second and I’ll move.

    Correte, por favor.
    Move aside, please.

I’m pointing this out, because apparently this usage isn’t very common in Spain, where “correrse” means “to ejaculate/cum”. So yeah, you can just reread these previous examples, but with this other meaning in mind now, and see why someone from Spain will surely have a laugh listening to us rioplatófonos. And, by the way, to express this other meaning in the River Plate area, we can use the colloquial expression “acabar“. Yes, “acabar” usually means to “finish” or “complete”, but it can also have this other sexually-related meaning here, i.e. “to cum”.

And that’s all for today! But if there are other expressions from this video that you would like me to explain, feel free to ask in the comments below.


[#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! 😉

[#004] Shh… ¡Callate!

Shh… This is a sound you’ll hear very often coming from the mouths of rioplatófonos. But don’t take it personal. We are not actually telling you to shut up or keep silent. We are just pronouncing our letters “y” and “ll”.


These two letters are not always pronounced the same way through all the Spanish-speaking communities. But in español rioplatense, when they are followed by a vowel they sound both this way: “sh“, as in “she”, “shoes” or “ash“. I will not use the actual phonetic symbols, but here are some examples of the way some sentences would be pronounced in the River Plate area:


>>Shut up!

Yo me llamo Yamila.
>Sho me shamo Shamila.

>>My name is Yamila.

Este llavero dice “Calle: Lavalle 123”
>Este shavero dice “Cashe: Lavashe 123″

>>This key ring says “Street: Lavalle 123”

It’s not that difficult, right? It just takes some time until you get used to it, but you’ll end up loving this special feature of Rioplatense Spanish, trust me!

  • Do all rioplatófonos pronounce it like that?

In general, yes. But if we get a little more technical here, these letters can actually be pronounced in two similar —yet different— ways in Rioplatense Spanish.

Have a look at these English words: “pleasure”, “genre”, “seizure”, “vision”. In these cases, the “sh” sound is heard a bit different, right? To mark the difference, we could spell that sound “zh”. What is actually happening here is that there is vibration of the vocal cords when these sounds are produced. Try this little experiment, touch your throat with the tip of your fingers and pronounce the following:

    Shhhh, she, shoes, ash…

You will notice in these cases that you feel no vibration when pronouncing the “sh” part of those words. The vibration starts or ends only with the vowels. Now, try doing the same with the following examples:

    Pleasure, genre, seizure, vision…

In these cases, every time you pronounce the “zh” part, you should be feeling the vibration on your throat. If you do feel it, congratulations! Your vocal cords work just fine! 🙂

This new sound represented by the spelling “zh”, with the vibration of the vocal cords, is another way in which the letters “y” and “ll” can be pronounced in castellano rioplatense. It is often associated though with elderly and/or higher-class people, and there seems to be a tendency for it to disappear, whereas the “sh” pronunciation keeps expanding among the younger generations.

Ok, enough theory already. Let’s practise now! Here you are, have a random, full-of-nonsense tongue-twister:

    Al llegar la gallina a la silla, chilla la ardilla llena de orgullo: “¡Pero qué maravilla! ¡Ya no llueve en Sevilla!”

Oh, hmm… That’s a lot of “sh” sounds you’re making. I get your hint… You want me to shut up now, right? 😦 Ok, fair enough!