Speak Spanish like a Porteño via Hernán Piñera / Flickr
How can you tell apart a Porteño (person from Buenos Aires) from other Spanish-speakers in Argentina and other countries? It’s easy, just listen to the slang.
Spanish from Buenos Aires is characterised by Lunfardo, a dialect of Spanish developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. While it was originally spoken by the lower classes, it is now widely spoken by all in the city, with some terms spreading to other parts of the country and the other side of the Rio de la Plata.
Che, enough history, let’s look at some of the top slang from Buenos Aires!
Some Porteño Slang Words
Che – Arguably the word you’ll hear most often in Buenos Aires, che can mean “hey! hey you!” to get someone’s attention, but is also commonly used as an interjection when addressing someone. You’ll hear this at the start of sentences, for example, “Che boludo!”
Boludo/a – Another word spoken with high frequency in the Argentine capital, boludo literally means someone with large testicles, although it isn’t used in this way (and can also be used for women and children). The meaning depends largely on context. It is a way of calling someone an idiot, but is also used as an affectionate term for a friend, or as a casual interjection. So if someone calls you a boludo, read the room before getting offended!
Quilombo – Used to describe chaos, or a mess. The traffic in Buenos Aires, for example, can be described as “un quilombo.”
Flash – Used as an exclamation, this means cool or awesome. So when Messi scores a goal, you could exclaim “Qué flash!” or “Es un flash!”. It can also be used as a verb, flashear.
The truth is in the milanesa via Juan Geracaris / Flickr
Flash Phrases to Use in Buenos Aires
Sos Gardel – The tango singer Carlos Gardel is a legend in Argentina. If someone tells you “¡sos Gardel!” (you’re Gardel), it means “you’re the man” or “you’re the best!”
Mala leche – Literally meaning bad milk, this phrase means a situation or person with bad intentions. It can describe a person (“Tiene mala leche” – you have bad luck) or can be used to describe a situation (“Qué mala leche!”).
Pedo – This word, meaning fart, has a number of common expressions. “Ni en pedo” – no way, not a chance; “En pedo” – to be drunk; “Al pedo” – for nothing, a waste of time; and “Subo como pedo de buzo” – translated literally as to go up like a scuba diver’s fart, this expression refers to climbing the social ladder.
La verdad de la milanesa – The truth of the milanesa (breaded steak or chicken, similar to a schnitzel). This means the real deal, or the plain truth.
Now that you’ve got the slang down, you just need to learn a few more things and you’ll be acting like an Argentine in no time!
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