Gringo Lingo

Glorious Lunfardo!

Rex Racer

By | May 27, 2010 | 6 comments

Glorious Lunfardo! The slang of Buenos Aires, coveted by the Argentines and held as holy as Mecca by the Porteños. When I first arrived in Argentina, I thought I was prepared and knew a reasonable amount of Spanish. Within the first 30 minutes of being in the country I quickly learned that it was going to take some time to gain the respect of the locals, let alone understand what they were saying.

To start my trip off, I tried to casually bring up pot, what sort of laws existed and how socially acceptable it was, in the taxi from the airport to my hotel. My intentions were to spark a conversation with the young hipster cabbie. The cab driver’s response was lost in translation before he even got started. He responded with terms like, “vos queres…,” “porro,” and “gamba.” I smiled and nodded, trying to stall for as long as I could. “What the hell did he just say to me?” I thought to myself. I’m jet-lagged, out of practice and he’s talking too fast with a weird accent were my justifications, but I soon found out that those excuses were not the case.

Argentine Spanish is different. In fact, it is almost in a world of its own. The difficult part is feeling out this new language and applying it socially. As you grow up in your own country, speaking your native language, you learn what slang words mean, as well as who, when and how to use them. Watching television, movies and interacting daily, shapes your style and use of these words. When and with whom are the appropriate times to use these street words and what images they represent are all subtly gleaned.

If you are daring enough to make your attempts at slinging these Lunfardo terms around, I would suggest doing your research first. Particular types of people use particular types of slang and other people draw conclusions from them. For example, if you were to say “Howdy mayne, you dun finished runnin’ off with that there can, cuz?” Your immediate conclusion would be that I was some sort of redneck hill folk from the Southern U.S. These words offer clues to new acquaintances and friends as to what type of person you are, S.E.S., education, etc; so be aware of what words you choose to use in Spanish.

To start things off, a good analogy would be this: Saved by the Bell and its characters. Each character had a particular set of slang that the writers would assign to them based upon their character’s personality. You are essentially performing the same act in Spanish when you begin to select Lunfardo in your daily Spanish speaking exchanges. Each character followed the traditional role and used the slang set of a categorized type of persona. You will casually be doing the same thing when you begin using Lunfardo.

In the Saved by the Bell episode, “The Last Dance,” each member of the prom band (which is coincidentally 90% of the main cast) uses a catch phrase during their introduction. In essence, others will judge you based upon your selected use of Lunfardo in the same way that you judge each character on Saved by the Bell according to their choice of slang. To begin, the Lunfardo words below will help you understand the categorizations that the Argentines throw around in everyday speech for these types of people if they were to hear these phrases…

For your reference:

Jessica Spano quotes: “You all are beautiful…peace…equality.”
Jessie always was politically correct and environmentally aware. Her feminist like behavior continually caused a stir with her macho boyfriend Slater.
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Lesbiana” or to be politically correct “mujer liberada”

Lisa Turtle quotes: “Keep it rockin’!” (On bass)
Lisa was wealthy, fashionable and sassy, all of which were easily interpreted by her band intro catch phrase.
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Cheta” (rich, snobby female)

Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater: Performs a “skilled” drum solo and a spin of the drum stick.
Ah Slater, truly as brawny and manly as they come. His smooth execution of the complicated drum solo shows his dedication to his interests. He is commonly known as a jock in English.
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Patovica” or “Rugbier” (Club bouncer or Rugby player)

Samuel “Screech” Powers quotes: “Cock-a-doodle doo dudes!”
High water pants, robot constructing, lame attempts at jokes all make a perfect receipt for a gooney geek.
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Traga” (Dork)

Zachary Morris quotes: “And I’m Zach Morris, everyone have a ball”
Smooth introductions for the band, keeps everyone calm and collected and he’s always got a plan. His selfless introduction as the last member of the band and acting lead singer show his confidence and smooth nature. Zach always got the ladies and was the coolest kid at Bayside (“And you know that it’s true”).
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Canchero” or “Galán” (Cool guy, ladies man)

Kelly Kapowski : Even though she wasn’t in the band we’ll throw her in there anyway.
The hottest girl in school. Attractive, the sexy girl from next door…
Lunfardo descriptive word: “Bombon” “Diosa” (Hottie or Goddess)

Now best of luck continuing your understanding and usage of Argentine lunfardo! We’ll be sure to supply you with more tips next week!

Rex Racer
LPBA Staff

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  1. Zach Attach

    25/03/2009 - 10:20 pm

    Bayside is the coolest school if you know what I mean,
    know what i mean! know what i mean!

  2. Wes

    06/04/2009 - 1:56 am

    Nice way of starting one's learning of lunfardo. I used to watch that show all the time.

  3. tony danza

    01/09/2009 - 7:09 am

    you mean you wouldn't call zach morris a cheto?


  4. Pingback: Daily Url, May 28 - Baexpats - Community of Expatriates in Buenos Aires, Argentina

  5. charlyren

    07/06/2010 - 11:13 pm

    What you said depends on what part of Argentina are you. often you can find more differences between differents social class or cultural level.
    I am from the center of the country, from a province called Cordoba.
    "Galan" is a term used mainly by older people, it is very difficult to hear that term in people under 35 years. "Canchero", "Matador" and other forms used to refer to ladysman.
    “Lesbiana” is a term that can be used to insult. similar to say "tortillera" or "torti," You should not use that term because, as explained earlier in the article is not politically correct.
    "Patovica" or "Rugbier" are not the same. Patovica refers usually to the person who is a guard at the entrance to a bar or nightclub, while Rugbier refers specifically to people who dress a certain way, go a lot to the gym and usually "play rugby"

    About the chat with the taxi guy:
    "vos queres": in spanish from spain: "Tu quieres". The second person on singular changes from "tu" to be "vos". This can be heard almost all in Argentina, and if you visit you should get used to it.
    "porro" may refer to cigarette smoking or mari__uana or other drugs. Depends on the place you are and I advise you not to accept it …

    "gamba" "te hago la gamba" means "I give you a hand", "me haces la gamba" means "you give me a hand."
    gamba may refer to leg. unfortunately this term has many more meanings

    Excuse my english and if you need anything let me know

  6. rachat credit

    24/10/2010 - 3:46 pm

    I agree with most of your points, however a few need to be discussed further, I will hold a small talk with my buddies and maybe I will look for you some opinion later.

    – Henry