[#029] ¿Te jode si nos vamos de joda?

It’s party time!  🙂 Or at least that’s what the title of this entry seems to suggest. Today we will be talking about the word “joda” and some other related ones, too. In Rioplatense Spanish, the word “joda” is slang for “fiesta“, so it is quite common to hear it in informal contexts. But it can also have other meanings, as you’ll find out in this post.




We should start talking about the verb “joder“, though. If we look it up in the Real Academia Española dictionary, we’ll see that the first meaning is “to fuck”. But this is not how this word is commonly used in the River Plate area. If you remember the first entry of this blog… Congratulations on having such a good memory!!! No, wait, I mean, if you remember that very first entry, then you’ll remember that in order to say “to fuck”, rioplatófonos usually use the verb “coger“. In addition, another well-known usage for the word “joder” is as an interjection, to express anger, irritation or suprise. But this is typical of Spain, and extremely rare in Argentina or Uruguay.


So what does “joder” actually mean to rioplatófonos? Well, many things, to be honest. Let’s see some of the most common uses, with examples. But first, a warning: some people might find it rude if you use this slang word, so if you are planning to start using it, make sure it’s with friends or people you know well.

1) Joder: to annoy or bother someone, e.g. “¡no me jodas más!” (stop bothering me!), “perdón que te joda” (sorry to bother you) or “¿te jode si pongo música?” (mind if I turn on some music?). Similarly, if something or someone is “jodido“,  like an exam or a teacher, it means they are annoying or difficult to deal with.

2) Joder: to joke about something, to speak in a non-serious manner, e.g. “no te enojes, te estoy jodiendo” (don’t be mad, i’m just joking with you) or “¿me estás jodiendo?” (are you kidding me?)

3) Joder(se): to ruin or damage something, to screw up, e.g. “no me vas a joder el día” (you won’t ruin my day), “si hacés eso, vas a joder el motor” (if you do that, you’ll damage the engine) or “se jodió la canilla” (the faucet is broken).

4) Joderse: to have to bear or endure something, to put up with something, e.g. “¡jodete!” (suck it up!) or “siempre termino jodiéndome por ayudar a los demás” (I always end up putting up with difficult situations for helping others).


Ok, enough with the verb “joder“. Let’s now look at the noun “joda“, and its two main possible meanings.

First of all, “una joda” can be used as “a joke” or something that’s not really true, following the second definition we just saw above. So we can say “no te enojes, es una joda” (don’t be mad, it’s a joke). What is more, during the ’90s there was a famous TV show here called Videomatch, which helped spread both this word and a special phrase containing it. In this show, pranks were played on people: basically, they did lots of horrible things to upset them and in the end they’d say “es una joda para Videomatch“. This show was so popular, that this phrase started being used by rioplatófonos when trying to calm their friends down, after teasing them or making fun of them.

And then, there’s the other meaning for “joda“, which has to do with having fun, as we said at the beginning of this entry. So for example, rioplatófonos can ask “¿dónde es la joda?” (where is the party?) or they can “salir de joda” (go party). But of course, this word can also be used in a more flexible way, not just to talk about an actual party. “Estar de joda” could also imply to be simply having a good time, instead of being at work, for instance.  😛

Enough theory. Let’s practice a bit now. Do you remember the entry in which we talked about the news channel Crónica TV? Well, look at the following screen capture from this newspaper’s website:




Here you have different examples of news articles where the word “joda” has been used. Can you try and guess which meaning is being used in each case? Are they talking about a joke? Or is it a party? By the way, as we saw previously, Crónica isn’t precisely a very formal or politically correct newspaper. That probably explains why we find so many hits with the word “joda” here. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this word is becoming less taboo or rude sounding for newer generations. We’d have to conduct a study to confirm this, though!

And finally, I’ll share with you a fun song called “Himno a la joda“, by Chicos Católicos. Chicos Católicos is a comedy play about a group of  teenagers who are about to take the First Communion. You can read more about it here. Anyway, this particular song is in fact a typical religious song, with modified lyrics, that has been turned into a cumbia. For those who are not familiar with cumbia, it’s a dance-oriented music genre, that is quite popular throughout Latin America. Anyway, here it goes. Enjoy the song!  😉 And you can turn on the subtitles if you want!




[#027] ¿Me estás cargando?

Rioplatófonos often say that they carry one another, yet they don’t actually do that. What do they mean by this then? Today we will talk about the expression “cargar a alguien” (to carry someone, literally speaking).

The first thing we have to say is that the verb “cargar” has several meanings in Spanish. I’ve just done a quick search in the DRAE (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española), and I’ve found (to my surprise) no less than 46 definitions! But don’t freak out, most of those meanings are either very closely related or very specific to a given domain. To keep it simple, we are going to say that one of the most common meanings of this verb is to carry or hold something or someone. So for example, we can carry a box or a baby: “cargar una caja“, “cargar un bebé“.

But this verb has another meaning, too. Look at this image from the website we talked about last time: Grandes Frases Ilustradas.


As you can probably guess from this picture, the second most common meaning for this verb is “to charge”, when talking about devices or their batteries, for instance. That is why in this picture you can see a mobile phone that, while being charged, says: “You’re charging me!”.

However, when a rioplatófono says “¡me estás cargando!” or asks “¿me estás cargando?“, they are neither being carried nor being charged… Ok, so much for suspense: let’s now solve this mystery. The expression “cargar a alguien” means to tease someone by jokingly lying. So when someone tries to fool somebody else or make them believe something untrue, this expression comes in handy. Look at this example from an Argentinian soap opera:

In this short dialogue, two people are talking on the phone about the police finding out about something apparently secret, and the guy doesn’t understand how that was possible. The woman says that there was someone who betrayed them and, after spying on them, gave them away. The guy can’t believe it, so he says the following at the end:

    –Pero ¿qué decís, Marga? ¿Cómo que Mía policía? ¿Me estás cargando?

    – But what are you saying, Marga? How come? Mía, a policewoman? Are you kidding me?

So whenever you think someone is lying to you for whatever reason, you can now say “¡Me estás cargando!” (You gotta be kidding me!).

And here’s a bonus! In English there’s an idiomatic expression with a similar meaning: “to pull someone’s leg”. In Spanish, we also have our own idiomatic expression to convey this meaning, but instead or pulling legs, we take people’s hair: “tomar el pelo“. So apart from saying “¿me estás cargando?“, you can also say “¿me estás tomando el pelo?“.

[#025] Estás al horno

Today I bring you a new expression that I have recently come across in an Argentine advertisement. The product that is being advertised is a “flan“, which is a dessert similar to a custard. And the expression used in this ad is “estar al horno está bueno“. Here’s the video:

This kind of dessert is very common in the River Plate area. You can have it with dulce de leche (remember?), with cream, or with both of them (and that’s called “flan mixto“). Yummy!

So this is the text from the video:

    ¿Vacaciones con tus suegros? ¡Descanso para tu billetera! Estar al horno está bueno. Te lo dice el flan casero Sancor, que ya estuvo ahí, para que vos disfrutes el verdadero sabor casero y mucho más.

And here is a quick translation:

    Going on holiday with your parents-in-law? Your wallet will get a break! “Being in the oven” is good. The home-made flan Sancor tells you so, as it has already been there, so that you can enjoy the real home-made flavour and much more.

Side note: Remember when we talked about the aspiration of the letter “s” on a previous entry? In these four sentences, there are seven instances of that kind of aspiration. Can you spot them?

Alright, but what does “being in the oven” mean then? Well, if we are talking about a cake, for instance, of course it can be literally inside an oven. But in a figurative sense, when someone “está en el horno” or “está al horno“, it means that they are in trouble or have to deal with a difficult situation.

In this particular case, it is assumed that spending your holiday with your partner’s parents can be tough. But the silver lining seems to be that they will be paying for certain things, so you won’t have to spend so much money in the end: your wallet will get a rest. That’s why being in trouble can be good, or “estar al horno ESTÁ BUENO“. And since this product has already been (literally) inside an oven, it can say first-hand that being there is good and, thanks to that, you’ll be savouring a delicious dessert.

These are two pics from the same ad campaign that show other situations where this phrase can be used. Can you guess why someone would “estar en el horno” in such cases?



Apparently, doing the dishes and eating soup have both a bad reputation! But hey, as long as you can eat this flan, it’s alright! Or at least that’s how marketing seems to work.

So next time you are sitting for an exam, paying your bills, or getting late to work, you now know that you can say “¡estoy en el horno!” and feel like a true rioplatófono. 😉

[#023] Faltan 35 horas para Navidad

The countdown to Christmas has already started. And lots of rioplatenses will celebrate it too. So yeah, we can say that Christmas is definitely in the air… And everywhere you look around! Even on your own Facebook home page.

As I was scrolling down on Facebook and seeing my friends’ post, likes and stuff, I came across a Facebook page called Me lo dijo un forro. The idea behind this page is to share phrases or comments made by forros (i.e. assholes). We have already talked about this typical rioplatense insult on a previous entry.

And this is the actual image I came across. It shows a typical dialogue that can take place in an authentic rioplatense family gathered to celebrate Navidad (or Christmas):

Feliz Navidad

Now, here we see the word “boludo” again (used in its mild version, not as an insult). We have already talked about it several times, so if this is the first time you see it, you can click on its tag and read more about it. But what about the word Crónica? As they argue about the exact hour and whether it is already Christmas or not, someone says “poné Crónica” (which means “turn on/switch to Crónica“). Well, this is an important cultural point that I decided to share with you today.

Crónica TV is a well-known news cable channel (and newspaper) in the city of Buenos Aires. It is really popular, but definitely sensationalist. So you can expect all kinds of funny and bizarre news to be broadcast 24/7. This channel is best known for the use of big white letters on red screens to announce “breaking news”. And the typical background music used while telling the news is a US military march: The Stars and Stripes Forever. Why such a choice? I have no fucking clue.

Anyway, I will share now some bizarre news that you can find on Crónica TV, so that you can get a better picture of what Crónica usually means to us, rioplatenses.

This is the kind of news that you are bound to find on this channel. I hope you can understand the news, but if you have any questions, you can leave them on the comment section below. The countdown to springtime is one of the most popular, together with the countdown to Christmas/New Year. That’s probably why in our initial dialogue we find people saying that you should check Crónica on Christmas Eve. If it’s Christmas already you will be seeing lots of crazy fireworks on the screen. Otherwise, you will see huge numbers telling you how many minutes/seconds are left before midnight.

And finally, I’ll give you a bonus video, where you can see some interesting news about a car crash… Well, the interesting part is actually that the only witness was Batman.

[#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.


[#020] This is Buenos Aires (I)

Today we’ll keep on learning about the typical culture of rioplatenses, or people from the River Plate area. Well, to be more accurate, we’ll be talking specifically about porteños, i.e. people who live in Buenos Aires.

I’ll share a video that is actually a funny sketch made by a group of young rioplatófonos. The main character here represents a porteño who wants to meet people from other countries and decides to invite foreigners to Buenos Aires, offering them a place to stay and also showing them around the city. Two guys from Great Britain arrive and… Let’s see what happens.

Did you like the video? Did you understand the parts in Spanish? We’ll be working later with some typical expressions of the River Plate area that appear in this video, but for this entry we’ll concentrate on some general cultural aspects first.

The first thing that we should point out is, naturally, the mate. You are already familiar with this typical drink, as we have already talked about it on our previous entry. So I’m sure you knew what Claudio was talking about (and holding in his hand) at the very beginning of the video.

In the second scene, we see Claudio receiving Peter and Willy. Did you notice that he gives them both a kiss on the cheek and also hugs them? Of course you did! Well, he’s overreacting a bit here in a humorous purpose, but that’s just how we roll, haha! In general, rioplatenses (and people from Latin America for that matter) are very warm and affectionate. We show our feelings quite openly. And yes, when rioplatenses greet someone in an everyday situation, we usually kiss that person on the cheek. And it doesn’t matter if the greeting is between a man and a woman, two women or two men. As long as it’s not a formal situation (which usually requires a handshake), we can greet others like this. Even if it’s someone you’ve never met before, like one of your friend’s friends. This may be shocking to some people, but hey, in some other parts of the world, like Québec or France, you normally greet people with two kisses, or sometimes even more! We just give one kiss, so it’s no big deal, right? 😀

Welcome England_

As a result of our open, effusive and friendly nature, we don’t just speak through our mouths, but also through our bodies. You may have already noticed this in Claudio, as he’s moving his hands around virtually all the time as he speaks. We’ve probably inherited this from the big waves of Italian immigrants who came to Buenos Aires during the last century. If you ask rioplatenses about their grandparents, you’ll find out that they were probably from Italy or Spain. But let’s focus on two specific instances of body language right now.

At 1:38, Claudio says “Ustedes tienen lindas mujeres también: Lady Di, las Spice Girls… Jamón del medio“, and then he kisses his fingertips. This expression “jamón del medio” means literally the middle part of the ham, which is regarded as the best/most delicious part. When this expression is applied to people, and women in particular, it means that they are very attractive. And yes, this hand gesture conveys the same idea.

At 4:18, Claudio says “Ok, this is Argentinian… very… food, the posta“, as he tries to explain (to the best of his linguistic skills) that they are about to eat a very traditional Argentinian meal (and the best one, according to him). He doesn’t seem to find a good translation for the word “posta“, though, so he says it in Spanish. In this case, “la posta” means “the absolute best, without question”. What’s more, “posta” can sometimes be translated as “truly” or “really”. For example, when you want to verify if something actually happened or if something is true, you can ask “¿Posta?“, which is equivalent to “¿De verdad?” or “¿En serio?“. And another common expression related to this is “decir la posta“, which means simply “to tell the truth”… Once again, this idea of “the best” or “the truth” can be accompanied by Claudio’s gesture: you make your thumb and index fingertips touch and form a ring, and you move your hand up and down.


Let’s now look at some other cultural points that we can gather from the video. After seeing Claudio, can you think of a common stereotype for porteños? People from Buenos Aires (and all Argentines by extension) are often said to be very arrogant and conceited. This is of course not true for everybody and I’m sure you can find arrogant people everywhere in the world, but I guess that we can see this attitude when Claudio tries to explain to his guests what the subway/underground is, as if they didn’t know already, or when he tells them that “we have the best pretty girls of the world in Argentina”.

Another interesting character in this video is Matilda, Claudio’s mum. She’s characterized as adhering to certain beliefs and values that, in my opinion, are shared by a big group of people of her generation. For example, she tells her daughter that she should have settled down and married a guy described as morally sound, strong and hard-working, regardless of the fact that her daughter thought he was boring and therefore probably wasn’t in love with him. She tells Claudio that he has no love for his country, because he let two Englishmen stay at her place, making a clear reference to the resentment some rioplatenses have towards Great Britain regarding the Malvinas (Falklands) conflict. And she points out the fact that Willy and Peter are gay in a negative manner. Claudio tells her that she should have a more open mind and not be so prejudiced. (Nevertheless, I’d say that in general younger generations don’t share these ideas anymore.)

En mi casa_

Moving on… Did you notice all the references to food on this video? Well, we have already talked about the “la posta” scene. There, these guys are eating choripán (“chorizo” is a kind of sausage, usually made from pork, and “pan” means bread, so “choripán” would be a kind of sausage sandwich), which is part of any genuine asado. In a nutshell, asado consists of different cuts of meat grilled on a parrilla and it serves as an excuse for family or friends to gather, especially during the weekend.

Birra” is a common word that rioplatófonos use to refer to beer in informal contexts, although we can also use the more general word “cerveza“. In this video, Claudio says “birrita” after sharing some choripán with Willy and Peter, and we can see him drink it from a bottle of Quilmes, a very popular beer brand here. And lastly, at 4.00, we can see them buying some garrapiñada, or caramel-coated peanuts.

And the last two points worth-mentioning: tango and baches. Tango is one of the reasons this area is best known for, and in Buenos Aires you can see people dancing tango in San Telmo, a traditional neighbourhood, among other places. At 4:04, you can see someone learning to dance tango in the street. Then, we have the word “bache“, which means “pothole”. You can see one in this video at 3:55. Believe it or not, these “baches” are also part of our culture and you can easily spot one if you walk a lot around Buenos Aires. But don’t worry, when election days are coming closer, our political leaders in power make sure they disappear.


Well, on our next entry we will have a closer look at the Spanish dialogues in this video, as there are some interesting words and expressions that need to be explained. But this is all for now… And probably the longest entry so far!

[#019] Amargo y retruco, carajo

As Halloween is getting closer, some of you may be wondering if rioplatófonos celebrate it too. Well, that’s a tricky question… Today we’ll look at three cultural aspects of the Rive Plate area: a celebration, a traditional beverage and a popular game.

Halloween is not really a traditional celebration around this area. Nevertheless, it has recently become kind of popular and you may spot some children wearing costumes here and there, asking for candy or sweets. Sometimes it’s specially organised by parents in a specific neighbourhood or just along some blocks. Other times it’s a special activity organised by some schools. And then, of course, it also works as an excuse for young people and adults to go out to nightclubs or have parties. But no, it’s not like the whole town gets creepy decorations or anything. Or at least not yet.

Now, as a consequence of this recent “popularization” of Halloween, some people have started to express their discontent saying that we should only stick to our own traditional celebrations, and not adopt others which are not really part of our culture. Have a look at the following picture:


Here we can see two kids celebrating Halloween and saying “¿Dulce o truco?“. Another possible version for “trick or treat” is “truco o trato“, but you will soon see why the words “dulce” and “truco” are specially chosen for this picture. Next to the kids we see a gaucho. For those of you who are not familiar with gauchos, we can briefly say that they are the typical traditional residents of the pampas. You are not likely to come across them in urban areas, but you can see them riding their horses in the countryside. In this picture, this gaucho answers “¡Amargo y retruco, carajo!“, which leads us to the other two things that I want to mention today: the typical drink and game.

First of all, the word “amargo” (“bitter”) refers to what this guy is drinking: mate, a traditional drink in all of the River Plate area, and especially in Uruguay. There’s a whole ritual to it, but in a nutshell, it’s a sort of tea that we have. You can see this gaucho is holding a gourd. That gourd is filled with yerba mate (the actual tea leaves), and then we introduce a “bombilla“, i.e. a straw, which has a special filter on its end. So then we pour hot water into it and take a sip. Voilà! The “real” or true mate is supposed to be bitter, but some people can add sugar to it to make it sweet. A gaucho wouldn’t probably approve of that, though.

Oh, and probably the most important thing: even though you can have it on your own, this is actually a shared drink. Yes, there’s only one straw for it, we know… But no, we don’t care. It’s a group thing and you can always share mate with your family and friends. There’s always a “cebador“, someone in charge of pouring it. This person always tries the first mate. Then he pours a new one and gives it to somebody else. This other person drinks it all up. Then the mate goes back to the cebador, who will pour a new one again, and give it to the next person in the group. The mate is passed on like that until there’s no more water left.


And here’s a good tip: be careful with being polite when having mate. You may feel tempted to say thanks when you receive or have finished a mate, but saying “gracias” when handing it back means that you’ve had enough. So if you say thanks after your first mate, then that’s all you will get!

Then, we have the word “retruco“. This word comes actually from a very popular card game called “Truco“. It’s not exclusive to the River Plate area, but it’s still very common here and everybody knows about it. I will not explain the rules or how to play it here myself, but I will leave a video with information about it anyway for those who want to know more. All I’ll say is that the name of this game comes from a special move that you can make during the game. When a player goes for “truco” (literal translation of “trick”), instead of playing for just 1 point, there are 2 points at stake. If the other player is confident enough and thinks he can win the hand, he can call for “retruco“: 3 points at stake. And if the original player decides to go even further, then there’s “vale cuatro“, which is worth 4 points.

Here’s the video with the guy explaining how to play Truco:

Question: Did you notice whether this guy has a rioplatense accent when he pronounces some Spanish words? There’s one place in particular where you should be able to tell (1:50). When he presents the cards and says their names, he refers to three of them: “sota, caballo y rey“. One of these three words can help you realize if he speaks Spanish like a rioplatófono or not. If you can’t guess what I’m talking about, click here.

Anyway, going back to the original picture of this post… The kids go “¿Dulce o truco?“. They are clearly speaking in the context of Halloween, so “dulce” stands for “sweet treat” and “truco” would refer to a kind of prank or mischief to scare the man if he refuses to give candy. But when the gaucho answers “¡Amargo y retruco, carajo!“, he’s disregarding Halloween and focusing on his traditional culture. When you talk about mate around here, you can say “¿Dulce o amargo?” to ask if the other person likes it bitter or sweet. The gaucho, of course, likes it amargo. And when you spout “truco” here, the first thing that crosses your mind is the card game. That’s why this gaucho answers “retruco“, as if he were raising the bet.

Finally, the gaucho also says “carajo“. We have already talked briefly about this word on our previous entry. So we’ll just say now that it’s an interjection that shows surprise or anger.

Ok, then. You’re now free to go celebrate Halloween and eat candy! Or play Truco online instead, while having some mate amargo. Or maybe both! Why not? 🙂