Deviations in language are vast even within the same dialect in the same language. Word choice and usage are one of the main tell tale signs that show what segment of a given society a person comes from or associates themselves with. In Mexico, I found myself in a funny predicament: although I could understand [...]
Deviations in language are vast even within the same dialect in the same language. Word choice and usage are one of the main tell tale signs that show what segment of a given society a person comes from or associates themselves with. In Mexico, I found myself in a funny predicament: although I could understand the Spanish of mature adults or the professional classes, I could hardly understand much of anything the younger people that I would hang out with in the streets, bars, and trendy areas would say to me. They were speaking in a slang — subcultural code — that I was previously unfamiliar with. I found quickly that Mexican Spanish is rife with such slang vocabulary.
Below is a sample of the slang words that I picked up from six months of traveling through the south and west of Mexico from the Guatemalan border up to Mexico City. It is possible that there are errors in my transcription or interpretation, so if anyone knows these words better than I appear to, please offer corrections and other suggestions through the comment form below.
Mexican Spanish slang words
- Chido- This word seems to be spoken after every other word amongst the hipsters of Mexico. Listen to a group of teenagers or twenty somethings talk, and you will hear “Chido, Chido, Chido” spoken over and over. It simply means “cool.”
- Chale- This word seems to mean, “That’s f’cked up.”
- Tranquis- Chill
- No Manches- It is my impression that this literally means, “Don’t stain,” but is used to mean, “Don’t do that, Don’t be a dipshit.”
- Bien Manchados- Also a derivative of the verb manchar — to stain — but it means in this instance “They are f’cked.”
- No Mama- Don’t suck.
- Chingar- To f’ck or to screw someone over.
- Chingon- A badass.
- Chingalera- A piece of shit. Used for an object, not a person.
- Jodete- Go f’ck yourself.
- Es una chinga- It’s too much work.
- Un chingo- A shit load.
- Me da hueva- Literally meaning “Give me egg” but really means “I don’t want to” as in, “I don’t want to work.”
- Huevon- This word was described to me as follows: “Huevo is also used to mean balls [as in testicles, used like “do you have any balls?”], and to call someone a huevon is to say that they are lazy because their balls are so big that they can’t get up to do anything.”
- Flojon- Lazy
- Guey- Dude. This word is also used with vast frequency.
- Madrazo- To smack, as it a smack across the face from a mother.
- Putazo- Bitchslap.
- Mamada- F’cked up thing.
- La tira- The fuzz, the police. Literally meaning “the throw,” as in the people who throw you in jail.
- Bote- Jail.
- Chata- Police.
- Placa- Police.
- Nave- Literally meaning “space ship” but is used to mean a fast car.
- A la verga- Literally meaning “go to the cock (penis),” this is intended to mean “go away.”
- En la madre- Literally, “in the mother,” this slang term means, “F’cked him up.”
- Chaba- Girl.
- Mora- Vulgar word for girl. After hearing this word, I asked around about to confirm its meaning with other Mexicans, but was told they had never heard of it. But, then again, I happened to only asked women.
- Latiga- A whip, a girlfriend.
- Ruca- Another slang word for girlfriend.
- Chela- Beer.
- Un fria- A cold one, a beer.
- No jodas- Don’t f’ck with me.
- Chavala- Like a girl.
- Putin- Weak, wimpy.
- Marica- A wimp, fag, ladybug.
- Pedo- A fart or a word to mean “drunk.”
- Estoy pedo- Literally, “I am a fart,” meaning “I’m drunk.”
- Chupar- To suck, but in the context of drinking alcohol is used as a slang verb to mean drink a beer.
Learning the slang words of a country is a good way to get closer to the social center of various groups, but doing so also sheds light on the value systems of such groups. In the slang words outlined above there are certain patterns that rise to the surface, as many of the words represent a tough guy social system, fighting, girls, strength versus weakness, drinking alcohol, cars, the police, a negative reaction to work, and violence. These are the sentiments of Mexico’s cultural underbelly.
Slang is all too often a male’s occupation. In Mexico this fact seems to be intensified. I would rarely hear women using any of the words outlined above, as they seem to be reserved as a light form of male bonding, of outlining the social structure and struggles of a lower class man’s world. Then again, I learned my lessons in Mexican slang solely from young men.
Perhaps more than anything else, slang words are a direct indicator of where a group of people stand, what they value, are involved in, their occupations, and the social ordering of certain segments of society who use this vocabulary.
Though, in Mexico, as elsewhere, slang vocabulary also tends to be appropriated and used by the younger generation en masse as a means of style and trend. In this light, the implications behind the words are not to be exaggerated. I do believe that there is an inner culture from which many of these slang words arose — perhaps you can call it the criminal class, the gangs, the tough guys, the working class — but the actual usage of this vocabulary is wide spread across various social tiers.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
December 19, 2013, 6:27 pm
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September 14, 2018, 3:23 am
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September 24, 2018, 11:56 am
“No manches” means “no kidding” (Mexican) “Mora” literally means “ripe”, or also is a word for blackberry; as a reference to a girl it is a dark-skinned girl. Or the double entendre of like my “cherry”. I have not heard it used derogatorily, other than like that; maybe dark berry to eat or pop; like she is ripe for the picking. A Mora chili is a dark, dried, smoked fairly hot jalepeno chili; so you can see the double use there…put it all together and you get a cute/hot dark skinned girl (ready for the picking)