As a Peruvian, I like to think that most of us are lively and enthusiastic.
We are enthusiastic to the point of even playing with our language. We love twisting or changing words just for the fun of it. Every day, we effortlessly bend and give free range to our spoken Spanish, thus creating an Encyclopedia of slang words. Why do we do it? Maybe because such words sound more original, catchier and funnier.
Yet, time takes a toll on everything. Every time I visit Lima, I notice many terms from the eighties and nineties are no longer used. I decided to compile a list of phrases I learned in childhood. A few of them are still in use, I believe.
Slang is the alchemy of language. Real language magic. The phrases below will convince you that Peruvians are magical by nature.
1. These are all my Goats – Estas son Todas mis ChivasImage Source: Montenegro
The word Chivas (goats) originally came from Cachivaches. Cachivaches, or Chivas, is a wide term embodying things as dissimilar as furniture to your own clothes. Chivas or Cachivaches mean the same, that is, all your personal belongings. When young Peruvians became independent, some decided to move out of their houses. They gathered all their Chivas to settle in another neighborhood.
2. I’m Lifting a Fine Sirloin- Estoy levantando un buen LomoImage Source: Spotme Bro
Sirloin steak, or Lomo, is the main ingredient to prepare our delicious Lomo Saltado. Nevertheless, Peruvians also used the term Lomo to refer to a very beautiful woman. So, whenever you heard a Peruvian male say ‘I’m lifting a fine Sirloin’, they meant to say that they were having a romantic (and sexual relationship) with a gorgeous woman.
3. I Have Not Seen It in a While!- Hace Tiempo que no la veo!Image Source: Thought Catalog
As teenagers, we also picked up adult slang. “I haven’t seen it in a while” was commonly heard among us. The phrase was uttered in a tone of complaint. What had we not seen specifically? Nothing in particular. This expression just meant that we had abstained from sex for a while.
4. Be careful with the Sausages! – Cuidado con los Chorizos!Image Source: Twitter
Be careful with the sausages! I must’ve heard this phrase every day. The streets of Lima were then filled with ‘Choros‘ (thieves). Everyone was on the lookout for fear of being assaulted. Choros were also called chorizos (sausages). Every time we went out, our parents yelled ‘Be careful with the sausages! Our parents worried for our safety and wanted us to be wary of the thieves.
5. Let me Throw a Steak- Dejame Echar un BistecImage Source: Recipes Hub
Whenever Peruvians checked up on something, they said ‘Dejame echar un vistazo!’ (Let me take a look!). But many purposefully changed the ‘Vistazo‘ for the similar sounding ‘Bistec‘ (Steak). More than often they said: Dejame echar un Bistec! which translated to English means Let me throw a steak!
6. I don’t have Much Toasted Corn- No Tengo Mucha CanchaImage Source: Woodland Food
Peruvians say Just like toasted corn! (como cancha!) to signify the image of abundance. But Cancha (toasted corn) may also mean knowledge and experience about something. If you hear anyone say ‘I don’t have much-toasted corn’, they only mean that they lack the required knowledge and experience.
7. Did You Already Obtain Your Cardboard? – Ya Sacaste tu carton?Image Source: Signal Waste
Peruvians hold education in high esteem. In those years, it was important to know if our close acquaintances graduated from college. School Diplomas were made of parchment paper, which Peruvians informally called cartón (cardboard) or cartulina (thick paper). So whenever we wanted to know if someone had obtained a degree or diploma, we asked: Did you already obtain your cardboard?
8. Waiter, Bring me Two Sevillians!- Mozo, Traigame Dos Sevillanos!Image Source: Wikiwand
Just by remembering my sacred Chimpum, Callao, my eyes turn tearful. Callao was perhaps the Mecca of Peruvian slang. After a quick visit, one easily picked up endless slang words.
It was in Callao, precisely, when I learned about the Sevillians. One night after school, my friend and I visited a bar in Bellavista. As we sat down, my friend yelled, Waiter, bring me two Sevillians! I looked around the walls, smiling, wondering what on earth my friend had just ordered.
Minutes later, the waiter didn’t bring two Sevillian dancers, but two delicious plates of Ceviche.
9. I Desiccated Myself!- Me quedé Seco!
Whenever we are exhausted, we’re prone to fall sleep. Somnolence usually strikes when we neither want it nor expect it. So whenever a Peruvian fell asleep unexpectedly, he/she said Me quedé seco! which literally means I desiccated myself!
10. That Guy is a Hat Salesman!– Ese tipo es un GorreroImage Source: Stoke my fire
Any tourist would be bewildered after hearing a Peruvian say: Ese tipo es un gorrero! This tourist would naively search his dictionary for the meaning of ‘Gorrero’: Hat Salesman. This is the reason dictionaries are sometimes useless: they regard slang words as ‘improper’, when most people use them at free will.
In Peru, the word Gorrero, or gorreón, is used to denote someone who is a scrounger and lives off the rest.
11. You’ve Got me all Swollen!- Me tienes Hinchado!Image Source: Safield
You’ve got me all swollen! Many adults and school teachers said this to children. As unruly as they are, some children misbehave and refuse to listen. On the verge of impatience, adults screamed Me tienes hinchado! to let them know they could no longer put up with their bad behavior.
Many Peruvian men also said ‘You’ve got my balls all swollen!’ to express the same impatience.
12. Start Your Engines!- Calienta tus Motores!Image Source: Kimt
After a stressful school week, we wanted to stay home and rest. This was impossible in Peru, where a party was thrown on any given day. On Saturday noon, for example, our phones didn’t stop ringing. Friends usually used the same line: Ok, dude, start your engines! (Ok causa, calienta tus motores!). They said this to invite us to a dance, party, pollada, parrillada, you name it, in the neighborhood.
As the apathetic and silly Robocop above, we had to get rid of our apathy and get ready to party all night.
13. Let me Introduce you to my Skinny Girl- Te Presento a mi FlacaImage Source: Strange Famous record
In the nineties, Peruvians referred to their girlfriends as flacas (skinny girls). I certainly had a predicament with this. Due to a personal preference, all of my girlfriends had been a bit chubby. So, when I had my first girlfriend, I felt a bit uncomfortable when friends kept asking: Introduce us to your skinny girl! Introduce us to your skinny girl! (Presentanos a tu flaca!)
My friends were surprised when I finally introduced them to my beloved skinny girl.
14. I Have a Serious Bicycle- Tengo una Seria BicicletaImage Source: press Herald
Bicicleta (the bicycle) is an intestinal ailment. To be more precise, Peruvians call ‘the bicycle’ to severe diarrhea. Whenever Peruvians suffer from it, they say I have a serious bicycle or I’m with the bicycle. What did they call diarrhea ‘the bicycle’? Simply because a person with diarrhea spends the day sitting on the toilet. Just like sitting on a bicycle.
15. I Have Far too Many Wrinkles- Tengo Varias ArrugasImage Source: Mull stream
During the hyperinflation in the nineties, most Peruvians had plenty of wrinkles. Whoever claimed to be free of wrinkles was being untruthful.
In Peru, people referred to their personal debts as wrinkles (arrugas). Yet, wrinkles was not a problem if one paid their bills gradually. Those who were very wrinkled were in trouble. Creditors refused to lend us money and bodegueros said to us: Hoy no te fío, mañana sí. (Today I don’t give credit, Tomorrow I will)
16. Turn Yourself into a Fly!- Ponte Mosca!Image Source: Stihi
‘To become a fly’ plainly meant to be more cunning and alert. In the dangerous streets of Lima, it was mandatory to behave like a fly. Flies were fast, alert and difficult to catch. Those who refused to ‘turn into flies’ were bullied, robbed and being fooled or scammed. I suppose this was the reason that ‘to become a fly’ was the most frequent piece of advice then.
17. I will Be ‘Tarzan’- Voy a Llegar ‘Tarzan’Image Source: The 5 the state
This phrase has no relation with ‘Tarzan of the Apes‘, much less with the lovely chimpanzee Cheetah (la Mona
Lisa Chita). Playful Peruvians began using Tarzan as a substitute for Tarde (to be late).
If someone was coming late, we said: he will arrive ‘Tarzan’! or he will be Tarzan! to inform that person will be late.
18. That Guy is Really Green- Ese tipo esta bien VerdeImage Source: Eonline
As the inexperienced teenagers we were, people called us ‘green’ every other minute. The allusion is clear. An immature fruit had a green hue and needed some time to ripen.
Likewise, older Peruvians referred to immature youngsters as ‘green‘ people. We just needed more exposure and experience to cease being ‘green’. Also, the word ‘green’ was applied to adults devoid of expertise in a particular field.
19. I Have My Stain- Yo Tengo mi ManchaImage Source: Reward me
I have my Stain! In our Peruvian collectivist society, this phrase was uttered with pride. It implied that you had people who constantly took care of you or watched your back. In Peru, Mancha means ‘a group of close friends’, usually from your neighborhood or school.
So if you had a stain, you relied on a close-knit group. It placed you in a stronger position from the rest.
20. Don’t Throw Yourself Out, Friend- No te Botes, CausaImage Source: Clickhole
In our neighborhood gang, ‘humility’ was essential. In truth, every person has a particular gift which outshines the rest. Therefore, it is foolish to boast our personal abilities. Especially when others had a different ability, which perhaps was even greater.
Peruvians are humble and we keep everyone in check. Whenever someone bragged, we quickly said: Don’t throw yourself out, friend! (No te botes, causa!) In Peru, Botarse (Throwing yourself out) is a slang for holding excessive regard for yourself.
21. You’d Better Wash Those Wings, Dude- Lavate Esas Alas, Causa
Real friends have the duty to be honest with each other. Nobody in our gang refrained from telling the truth even if it was embarrassing.
‘Wings’ (Alas) was the slang term for armpits. If someone had smelly armpits, we bluntly said: You’d better wash those wings, dude! Of course, we didn’t say it like that. For us, it was more like: “Pasu Mare, tienes que lavarte esas alas, causa, por mi madre….ah!”
22. He is an Old Green Man- Es un Viejo VerdeImage Source: Giant Japanese Robot
An expression inherited from Spaniards, ‘to be green‘ means to refuse to lose your vitality and youth. When green is applied to an old person, it means this old man has a predilection for younger women. ‘He is an old green man’ has either a good or bad connotation. Some believe that ‘an old man has no business dating a younger woman’. But as I said, it all depends.
I still remember what a friend said: “the old man who rejects admiring the beauty of younger women is already dead.” I believe Plato agreed with such statement somewhere.
23. You are Handling a Fine Needle – Te Manejas una Buena JeringaImage Source: Kims Big quilting adventure
This phrase is applied to those well versed with slang. Slang translated into Spanish is jerga, a word Peruvians playfully changed into Jeringa (Syringe). If someone says ‘you are handling a fine needle’, take it as a compliment. Those well versed with Jeringa are fun to be around: they keep the mind stimulated and entertained.
24. Hey, You Kitty Cat’s Chest!- Oye, Pecho de Gato!Image Source: Oddity Mall
Hey, You Kitty Cat’s Chest!, was a phrase darted at someone extremely skinny. The connotation was that most cat chests were so bony their ribs were mildly visible.
Kitty Cat’s Chest was used to bug someone without ill intention. Others said the phrase naturally: “I don’t how he keeps that Kitty Cat’s chest after eating so much!”
25. That Woman has her Mariachi – Esa Mujer Tiene Su Mariachi
‘That woman has her Mariachi’ was something older men said. When adults discussed how beautiful a particular woman was, one of them said: ‘Be careful, that woman has her mariachi.’
Mariachi? They didn’t mean a woman had a Mexican ranchero singing “Las Mañanitas’ or ‘Cielito Lindo’ for her. No. They just meant that a woman already had a husband. Peruvians simply changed the Marido (husband) for Mariachi.
26. I just Couldn’t Hold the Vulture – No Pude Contener el BuitreImage Source: Newsport
As a former alcoholic, I assure you that holding the vulture is tough. Attending Peruvian polladas, one was pushed into drinking “until the last consequences”. Usually, the last consequences came with the arrival of the Vulture. What is the Vulture really? In one word: the vomit.
After drinking a lot, one excused himself to the restroom and stumbled amid the couples dancing a Technocumbia. After vomiting, one returned to their friends a bit embarrassed. “Sorry, friends, I just couldn’t hold the vulture“, I said.
My friends responded: No pasa, nada empanada, contigo causa…!
27. He is Pulling out the Tripe– Se esta Jalando la TripaImage Source: Arte e luz
He is pulling out the tripe! No, we didn’t refer to Jack the Ripper, who ruthlessly pulled out the bowels of their victim’s bodies.
We said “someone pulled out his tripe” to allude this person was masturbating. As all teenage boys, we were often accused of pulling out our tripes. We were accused even when we didn’t really do it. This was a daily thing in our gang, whose members picked on one another.
28. I Have a Good Tooth- Tengo un Buen DienteImage Source: Ung
Peruvians didn’t use this phrase for someone who had just one tooth. Instead, this expression meant that one had a voracious appetite and ate all day long. A phrase that, honestly speaking, can be applied to all Peruvians in general.
29. Hey, You Crazy Man!…- Oye, Loco!..Image Source: Youtube
In the nineties, any tourist visiting our neighborhood may have believed we were crazy. All of us youngsters addressed each other as Loco (crazy man). Before saying anything, we purposefully added: Oye, Loco! Que buena, loco! Como estas, loco! Si, loco!
We loved calling each other that way. We were all Locos. A life without a measure of craziness is certainly no life at all.
30. Go Nuts!- Alocate!
If someone dialed our number in the nineties, they surely freaked out! On the other end, they didn’t hear the usual: Hello..Who may I speaking with?… Nope. Instead, they heard us yelling Alócate! which literally means Go Nuts! or Get Crazy!
Who in their right mind would answer a phone thus? We did. Most of us preferred to say Alocate! instead of the formal Aló! (Hello). Aló was just too boring, I thought.
31. That Woman is a Real Monkey- Esa Mujer Es Muy MonaImage Source: Mad Movies
My first girlfriend used this phrase constantly. Whenever an attractive woman crossed our street, my girlfriend said: “That woman is a real monkey“.
When I first heard this I thought this woman had a hairy face. Just like ‘Zira’ from Planet of the Apes. But my girlfriend meant that such woman was very well dressed, flirtatious and vain. Of course, the slang ‘mono’ was also used for men occasionally.
There are more phrases, which I will add in a future article. As for now, that’s all, Folks!
- 27 Spanish Phrases That Are Unique To Peruvians
- “Auntie Poison” Took Peruvian Street Food To The Next Level: These Are My Favorite Dishes
- Kissing In Public Is Possibly The Most Peruvian Thing Ever “Chappetex”
- 27 Spanish Phrases That Are Unique To Peruvians
- 62 Cultural Peculiarities That Make Peruvians Unique
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