Killer Spanish, innit?

22 Oct, 2010 | Anthony Moore-Bastos

Arriving in El Alto or La Paz knowing some standard Spanish - be it from Spain or Latin America - may prove insufficient to communicate with many locals. Paceño Spanish has been promiscuously cohabiting with both Aymara and Quechua for cen- turies in culturally accepted ‘concu- binatos’ without ever really getting married. Hence, the Spanish spoken by many Alteños and Paceños has kept a strong indigenous pronuncia- tion, syntax and lexicon. In recent years, English has also been invited into this ménage à trois in certain circles.

Paceños are proud of the kind of Spanish they speak yet this Spanish differs from one genera- tion to another as well as between areas of La Paz: Zona Norte, Zona Central and Zona Sur. Castellano Paceño can also be divided into groups according to status, occu- pation, gender and ethnicity but it’s equally possible to cluster jargons of this city into music styles, food, sports, arts and nightlife. There is, however, and as I will go on to explain, some common ground shared by most paceñ@os.Here we go, an idiosyncratic list, in no par- ticular order.

Chupar (to binge drink), farrear (ditto), chela (beer), quivo (money), amanecerse (get drunk till dawn), amolle/vaca (contribution toward the alcohol), chaqui (La Paz’s hangover), mi ñato/a (my boy- friend/girlfriend), ¿Ubicas? (do you get it?) ¿Cachas? (ditto but blue- collar), ¡De bolas!/ de one/ A y B (get into something without further ado), sips/nops (yes/no), aps (won’t tell ya!), quete (mind your own business), normal (fine), suave (alright, cool) finde/fincho (weekend), faulazo (nasty foul - football) bombazo (mor- tally potent goal kick), chacharse (to skive), chanchullo (cheat notes for exams), chape (French kiss), tope (ditto, lips only, no tongue), prende (one-off kiss, groping optional), tire (one-night stand), ¿No ve? (innit?), o sea (like), webon/huevón (idiot), combo/combito (any hard liquor bottle and soft drink or juice mixed), pucho (cigarette), maldito (sick/cool), aflo- jar (‘to loosen’, meaning whether sb might be willing to have sex), calien- tahuevos (hussy/tease), ley (cool), de onda (cool), de la puta (cool), jodido/denso (fucked up!), viejo (mate), chango/men (bloke), cuate (friend), taxibola (leg it out of a taxi without paying) ring raja/dindon raja (to ring on someone’s doorbell and run away; no, it’s not immature in the slightest), waso (ill-mannered/ foul-mouthed), hueco/a (airhead), pichanga (very easy), duro (difficult), verga, pija, mula (drunk), condor (very drunk, as in you look like a condor when two of your mates are carrying you home, your feet drag- ging behind you with both your arms flung around their necks).

And now onto YAAA!!! Nobody seems to know where the devil YAAA!!! came out of. YAAA!!! is a La Paz phenomenon, a one-off rollicking yell uttered after an incon- gruous joke which, when joking in Paceño slang, can trigger a yaaa- loaded verbal meltdown for all par- ties involved. Creating both a vicious and virtuous circle, it becomes a verbal black hole that swallows peo- ple in with centripetal force, forcing them to yell Yaaaaaaaaaa…!!! in unison. It’s really bizarre. This yell of sorts can be used in a joke as a ba- ton in a relay race and simply means ‘I’m taking the piss/I’m kidding’ as in ‘Me han tratado de cogotear ano- che…YAAA!!!’ (‘I was almost robbed and beaten to death in a taxi last night…YAAA!!!’). The YAAA!!! usually allows the joker to laugh at his joke before the rest does, making him look ridiculously immersed in a self- deprecating soliloquy but also mak- ing it clear that he wasn’t speaking in earnest about the ridonkulous thing he said in the first place. The other Yaaa?, the quiet one, means ‘really?’ but it also has a ‘blimey!’ air.

For example: Llocalla (child in Aymara): ¿De dónde eres gringuito? (where are you from gringo?+diminutive) Gringo: London. Llocalla: Yaaa? In a future Bolivian Express issue I will take you deeper into this lexical jungle, battling with increasingly obscure Bolivian slang including Castellama, which is the Spanish spoken in El Alto and the periphery of La Paz.

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