Of course, no blog about Argentina is complete without at least a mention of lunfardo. This is the slang the everyone uses, and even though you might be fluent in Spanish, don’t think that you will come here understanding the average Joe on da skreet. I was so disappointed the first time I heard someone talking complete lunfardo. I thought, “Ok, I don’t know as much Spanish as I thought…” but then someone explained to me that she was talking with a lot of slang, and there is no way a non-Argentine is going to understand this lingo without it being explained to them.
Lunfardo comes from way back in the early 19th century and was used by prisoners in Argentina so that the guards couldn’t understand them. They also began reversing the syllables of some words, i.e. cafe con leche becomes feca con chele. This spread to the tango community, and thus many tango lyrics are difficult to understand by many. Most lunfardo that you hear is either funny, offensive or sexual in nature. The Argentines have a unique sense of humor and are not easily offended (unless you don’t recognize their best fútbol stars or you refuse to drink “mate” with them). Here are some examples of my favorite lunfardo terms:
The sense of humor here is a little more tolerant than what we as North Americans would consider acceptable (btw, don’t call yourself American in Latin America. We are all in “The Americas” and calling the USA “America” is kind of insulting to many Latin Americans because it seems to indicate that they are not part of America). Comedians and TV shows are more openly sexual that what I’m used to. Their verson of Dancing With the Stars, for example, is a lot different than ours. I won’t include a link, but you can find it on Youtube under Bailando por un Sueño. Warning: take the kids out of the room first! Also, they don’t worry so much about being politically correct as we do. Friends call each other gorda (fatty), flaca (skinny), negra (blacky) and a host of other terms that we in the US might find offensive. This has nothing to do with the size of a person, although the term negra probably came from the darker skin color. I used the feminine form, but guys do it too.
Another expression I find strange, and it’s common throughout South America, is the word chino. Technically this word means Chinese, but it is used to describe any person of the Asian persuasion – no matter where they’re actually from. It’s also used for any small store that is run by Asians (and there are many). These stores are like dollar stores – everything is cheaper, but it’s basically the same stuff you might find at Walmart. So someone might say, “I’m going to the chino.” This offends no one, especially the “chinos” themselves. In fact, the stores are actually named “El Chino” or something along those lines. I even saw one aptly named “Supermercado Argenchino”!
There are many more lunfardo/slang words that I heard during my stay here, but these were some that stood out to me. The Argentines are such a warm, accepting people, and not so quick to judge, be insulted or offended, or run and sue someone for something stupid. They are so much more tolerant that the people I’m used to being around, and even strangers are more open to each other in general conversation on the street than we are in the USA. I’ve learned so much about just relaxing, not rushing or just laughing something off that I might have found offensive before… Indeed it’s an experience in itself to be in a different culture.
Te amo Argentina! ❤