San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Goat Is Great: Learn Your Pachuco

According to Wikipedia, the f r e e – cont ent encyclopedia on the Internet:

Pachucos were Mexican American youths who developed their own subculture during the 1930s and 1940s in the southwestern United States.

They wore distinctive clothes (such as Zoot Suits) and spoke their own dialect (Caló). Due to their doublemarginalization stemming from their youth and ethnicity, there has always been a close association and cultural cross-pollination between the Pachuco subculture and the gang subculture. For this reason, many members of the predominant (Anglo) culture assumed that anyone dressed in pachuco was a gang member.

“The Pachuco style originated in El Paso, Texas, and moved north, specifically following the line of migration of Mexican railroad workers (“traqueros”) into Los Angeles, where it developed further …

“The word ‘pachuco’ originated as the local Mexican Spanish slang term for a resident of the city of El Paso, probably early in the 20th century. Even today, El Paso is still called “El Chuco” or “El Pasiente” by some. According to another theory, the word ‘pachuco’ is a derivation of Pachuca, the name of the city in the Mexican state of Hidalgo where Mickey Garcia, thought by some to be the originator of the Zoot Suit … brought his style from Pachuca, Mexico, to San Diego. Another theory says that the word derives from pocho, a derogatory term for a Mexican born in the United States who has lost touch with the Mexican culture.

The word is also said to mean ‘punk’ or ‘troublemaker’ …

“Pachucos called their slang caló (sometimes called pachuquismo), a unique argot that drew on the original Spanish Gypsy Caló, Mexican Spanish, the New Mexican dialect of Spanish, and American English, employing words and phrases creatively applied …

“The same word ‘pachuco’ is used in Costa Rica to define Costa Rican slang. It nevertheless differs from the Mexican slang.”

The last time I wrote an article on pachuco, the word for

Costa Rican street

slang, I regretted it. I got reader letters from here, there and everywhere loudly claiming corrections, many of them contradictory. I finally realized that, because it is slang, many of its words vary from one location, group and time to another.

So, I am not going to do it again. This time, instead of garnering pachuco words from friends and neighbors, I am extracting 75 words from a longer list of costarriquismos, that is, Costa Rican slang and colloquial words and expressions.

This same source defines the word pachuco, when referring to a person, as follows: “A lazy youth, who doesn’t study, who is gross, rude and vulgar.” As some of these words may, in fact, be considered vulgar enough to be called pachuco, you might want to be careful about throwing them around.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the first 20 of these words. The other 55 will come in the next article.

1. agarrado: stingy. Agarrar means “to grab,” making agarrado “grabbed.” Another slang word for “stingy” is pinche. The standard Spanish words are tacaño or avaro.

2. agüevarse; also, ahuevarse: to get bored, fed up or lazy. This comes from the word huevo, which means “egg,” but also “testicle.” The slang word for “bored,” then, is agüevado/a, and ¡Qué agüevazón! is “How boring!”

3. ahorcarse: to get married. Its literal meaning is “to hang oneself.”

4. amarrar el perro: to fail to pay back borrowed money. It literally means “to tie up the dog.” It would be interesting to find out the origin of this expression.

5. bañazo: ridiculous, shameful. Baño means “bath.” The –azo suffix means “big” or “great.” ¡Qué bañazo! means “How ridiculous!” or “How shameful!”

6. bicho: literally “bug” or “insect.” It is slang for “oddball,” “delinquent” or, for that matter, anyone up to no good.

7. bostezo: This is the noun for “yawn,” but, as you can imagine, it also refers to anyone or anything that is a bore.

8. brete: This is another word for trabajo (“work” or “job”).

9. brumoso: Bruma means “mist” or “fog.” As Cartago is known as la ciudad de las brumas (“city of the mists”), a follower of the Cartago soccer team is a brumoso. By the same token, a follower of Alajuela’s liga deportiva is a liguista, and a follower of Saprissa’s team is a saprisista.

10. cajón: coffin. It literally means “big box.”

11. carajo: If you look this up in a dictionary, it will tell you that it is an interjection along the lines of “shit” or “prick.” It is, in fact, used as an interjection in Costa Rica, but tends to have a less vulgar meaning. If you refer to someone as a carajo, it is more like saying “type” or even “guy.” Children are affectionately called carajillos, and things or actions are often called carajadas, with only a slightly negative meaning.

12. car’ebarro: This is a contraction of cara de barro, which means “mud face.” As you can imagine, it is not a nice thing to call someone.

13. cáscara: In standard Spanish, it means “husk” or “shell.” Its slang meaning is “impudence” or “disrespect.” It is always used in the expression ¡Qué cáscara!

14. chapulín: This usually refers to a grasshopper, but its slang meaning is “juvenile delinquent.”

15. chavalo/a: guy or gal.

16. Chepe: slang for San José, the capital of Costa Rica.

17. chinamo: an improvised stall for selling things.

18. chinear: to pamper or spoil. A person referred to as chineado/a is someone who expects to be indulged all the time.

19. chivo/a: In standard Spanish, this noun refers to a baby goat or kid. It is used in various ways as slang. ¡Qué chiva! means “Great! Ponerse chiva means “to get angry” or, as we always say, “pissed off.” And a chivo is a man who is maintained by a woman.

20. choza: house or home. It is used a lot like the old expression “pad.”n


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