Colombian Slang

¡Qué chévere!
Elise De Romas

Hello Filmotequeros and welcome to another journey to a Spanish-speaking corner of the globe! This month’s movie, Isolated, takes us to beautiful Colombia in Latin America.

This gorgeous country is divided into 5 natural regions – the Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoquía and Amazon regions. Within these regions, Colombians have given each other nicknames for example the Pastusos for those who live close to the Ecuadorian border. Costeños was given to those who live on the coast. Those coming from Bogota are called Rolos, whilst those from the city of Cali are called Caleños. Paisas, who happen to have my favourite Colombian accent, are those who are of Medellin and the surrounding valleys. Just like the number of nicknames given, there are also a lot of accent variations within Colombia differing from region to region equating to a little over 2 dialects per region – wow!

Variations can lie in the level of politeness when speaking, for example Colombians from the North Coast tend speak less informal compared to their comrades in the Colombian highlands of Colombia. Other variations may include the insertion and suppression of personal pronouns, and among many other factors, quite often unique slang ways of speaking may be used. Like many places in Latin America, the word Chévere can mean cool, or awesome. Chimba can also mean awesome but can mean a variety of other things including a sexy and curvaceous woman – depending on the context.

One popular and enigmatic phrase (in my opinion) is Dar Papaya – which literally translates to: to give the papaya. This has a similar meaning to our English proverb of Opportunity makes the thief. No des papaya (don’t give the papaya) means don’t let yourself be an easy target for theft. Innocently leaving money on your desk at work whilst taking a trip to the bathroom can be seen as giving the papaya or taking a selfie with your shiny new phone in a dangerous area would also be giving papaya. We’re not sure where this quirky saying came from but it is an important lesson to take into consideration. Greeting people in Colombia can get wonderfully simple too. It is quite common for people to shorten salutations to like Buenos Dias to Buenas!

Language is culture, and slang in a language can give us a kind of relaxed and intriguing insight into the norm within a country. On the other hand, it can add great confusion- both for the non-native Spanish speaker or in this case, non-Colombian, and the native Spanish speaker who cannot explain where this particular form of slang came from.

This month’s film of Isolated shines a little light onto the rarely seen group of minute artificial islands off the Caribbean coast near Cartagena. Share a unique insight into a community of 800 people – descended from slaves and inhabiting the islands for around 200 years. Make sure you come and share this unique life and culture with us this May.