[#018] ¡La pucha!

A couple of weeks ago, Mafalda turned 50. Yet, she still looks as if she were only 6! Have you ever heard of her?

She’s the main character of a very popular comic strip written and drawn by Quino, a well-known Argentine cartoonist. Mafalda is a girl who always makes interesting observations about complex and mature topics, and is always worried about humanity and where the world is heading to.

As people remembered and celebrated her birthday, some decided to share her strips online, and I came across this one:

Mafalda (2)

Reading “la pucha” made me think that I could explain the meaning of this expression in this blog. Now, I’ve read that “pucha” means “vagina” in Mexico, but it has a totally different meaning in español rioplatense. In the River Plate area this is actually a euphemism, that is to say, a mild word or expression that is used instead of a more harsh or offensive one, as is the case of “heck” used instead of “hell”, or “shoot” instead of “shit”.

So… Any idea of what “la pucha” could stand for here? It stands for “la puta (madre)“; but when this expression is uttered, we are not really talking about a whore (direct translation of “puta“). This is actually an expression of surprise, anger or frustration. A good equivalent in English would probably be “dang”, a euphemism for “damn”.

In this comic strip then, Mafalda seems to be playing with her friend Felipe, and apparently they are both pretending to be in a cowboy film. Felipe shouts “Bang!” — he’s just shot his toy gun. Mafalda then says “¡la pucha!“, as things didn’t go well for her, and falls down and fakes being dead. Felipe doesn’t like the fact that Mafalda uses a typical rioplatense expression, implying that that’s not what a cowboy would normally say, so she’s probably killing the mood. Near the end of the strip Mafalda resorts to another euphemism. Did you also spot it? She says to her friend “¿por qué no te vas un poco al cuerno…?” as she criticises the use of foreign words in our culture. (Oh, shit! I mean… Shoot! I’m writing all of this in English, haha! Sorry, Mafalda!)

Irse al cuerno” does not really mean “to go to the horn”, which would be its literal translation. That makes no sense. Instead, it stands for “irse al carajo“, which in this case could be translated as “to go to hell” or “to fuck off”.

You may be familiar with other words like “caramba” or “caray“, which are also euphemisms for “carajo“, but these are only used as interjections, to show surprise or anger. Anyway, these two words are not frequently used by rioplatófonos, and they just can’t be used as euphemisms in the expression “irse al carajo“.

dia de mierda

Another euphemism commonly used in the River Plate area is “miércoles” (“Wednesday”), when we want to avoid saying “mierda” (“shit”). For example, if we do not want to sound so rude in an informal context, we can ask “¿qué miércoles pasa acá?” (“what the heck is going on here?”), or we can express anger or frustration by saying “¡qué día de miércoles!” (“what a shitty day!”, even if it’s not actually a Wednesday).

There are lots of expressions that work in the same way, but we’ll be seeing them in the future, little by little. For now, you can just concentrate on “pucha“, “irse al cuerno” and “miércoles“.

By the way, going back to Mafalda… Did you know that you can take a picture of you sitting right next to her if you come to Buenos Aires? Yes! You can meet her in San Telmo, a traditional neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. She’s sitting on a bench, waiting for you, right at the corner of Defensa and Chile street. Come on, come and say hi to her! 😉



[#016] ¡Hijo de re mil P*7@!

To many people studying a foreign language, learning typical insults and swear words is one of the first, fun things to do. We’ve already seen some common insults in Rioplatense Spanish, like boludo and pelotudo, but there’s an interesting video which will help us learn lots of other words, too.

In this video you will see a rioplatófona recording a message for her boyfriend. Here it goes:

Did you understand the message? I’ll add a transcription below, but let’s go over it quickly anyway. One thing is obvious: this girl is really mad (or muy caliente) at her boyfriend… Apparently he left her a note on a napkin saying he wants to take some time for himself and put off the wedding. Lovely, right? This is why she loses her temper and shouts several insults at him by the end of the video. Have a look at the transcription and we’ll focus on the swear words afterwards:

    Hola, mi nombre es Rocío Linares, para los que no me conocen. Hoy a la mañana me levanté y encontré esto:

    Buen día, hermosa:
    Para cuando leas esta carta, ya no voy a estar aquí. Sabemos que los últimos días no fueron lo mejor de nuestra relación. Después de lo que pasó el otro día en la quinta llegué a la conclusión que no quiero ser como todos los demás. Aunque sé que faltan 2 meses para el gran evento, le pido disculpas a tu viejo. Sé que está todo pago, pero bueh… Necesito tomarme unos días/semanas. Si realmente creés en el amor que hay entre nosotros, te pido, por favor, que respetes este tiempo. Esta decisión es por el bien de los dos. No me llames, no voy a atender.
    PD: Me dejé unas cosas. ¿Me las guardás? Va a pasar a buscarlas Fito. Te amo, cucaracha.

    ¡Hijo de puta!
    Esto no es una carta, Matías. Esto es una servilleta de papel.
    ¿De qué quinta me estás hablando? Yo no fui a ninguna quinta, Matías. ¿Qué quinta? No te entiendo.
    Vos, para mí, sos exactamente igual al resto de los hombres que conozco. Unos cagones, hijos de puta, abandónicos. Usan, usan y tiran. Eso es lo peor, Matías Galetto.
    El gran evento, te voy avisando una cosa, Mati, es nuestro casamiento.
    Pero bueh, o sea, yo levanto el teléfono, pero bueh, y le digo a la gente, se canceló el casamiento, pero bueh, ahora me meto todo el casamiento en el culo, pero bueh.
    ¿De qué amor me estás hablando, Matías, si lo único que hay es abandono acá? Vos me estás dejando con una servilleta, Matías.
    Matu, Matías Galetto, con doble T de trava hijo de puta, garca de mierda, chanta, mentiroso, forro. Me estás usando con esto. ¿Cómo me vas a dejar una servilleta? Hijo de puta, ¿qué te pasa? ¿No te sube oxígeno a la poronga? ¿No podés pensar? ¿Qué tenés, mierda, en la cabeza? Hijo de re mil puta. Matías, tenés un día para explicarme qué mierda es esta servilleta que me dejaste. Ya, como quieras. Mandame un mensaje, señales de humo, una paloma mensajera, lo que se te cante el ojete, pero me explicás qué es esto. Y al final mi viejo tenía razón: sos un pelotudo.


The first one is easy: “hijo de puta” means simply “son of a bitch”. This is of course a very common insult. The girl in the video also uses a more emphatic version near the end, though. She says “hijo de re mil puta“. We have already talked about the use of “re” as an intensifier, and now you can see that we can also add “mil” (“thousand”) in some cases too. So this wouldn’t be just any son of a bitch, but the worst son of the worst bitch ever.

Cagones” means “cowards”. The word “cagón“/”cagona” comes from the verb “cagar” (“to shit”), so here we’re literally saying “someone who shits (their pants as a result of being scared)”.

Garca de mierda” brings up a new word, “garca“, which in fact isn’t that new. It comes right from the verb “cagar”, but you just swap the syllables. Changing the order of the syllables is a common thing in lunfardo, the typical slang of español rioplatense. Anyway, “cagar a alguien” (“to shit on someone”) means to screw them over, to do something bad to them. So that’s what someone described as “garca” does. In this case, Matías is clearly being a “garca” towards Rocío.

Trava” is a word usually used in a pejorative way to describe a man who dresses as a woman.

Then, Rocío says “chanta, mentiroso, forro“. These three words are somewhat related. In fact, a “chanta” in the River Plate area is someone who lies all the time, i.e. un mentiroso. And someone referred to as “forro” is simply an “asshole” or a “jerk”. The word “forro” actually means “protective cover” in a general sense and, more specifically, “condom”.

No te sube oxígeno a la poronga” would be something like “your poronga is not getting any oxygen” (“poronga” being slang for “penis”). This would be another version of the less vulgar expression “no te sube oxígeno a la cabeza“, meaning you can’t think/you can’t use your brain.

Lo que se te cante el ojete” means “whatever you feel like doing”, but in a more vulgar way. The word “ojete” means “ass”, so this is basically “what your ass decides (sings) to do”.

And finally, “sos un pelotudo“. But you already know that one.

The only thing left to say is that (fortunately?) this video isn’t real. It’s just the first video of a YouTube series, so they are just acting. You can go and check out how the story continues. Just be careful. You are likely to get bombarded with plenty of Rioplatense slang! 🙂