Chilean Spanglish Spoken Here: A Rooster from the Glue

Spanglish is a funny language. Spend enough time here in Chile and you end up pretty fluent in the Chilean variant, which I call Spangli-shilean!! (Get it?) See? Right there you need to be on the inside track to cachar la onda

At our most recent Chilespouses dinner, our resident comedian Eileen Shea had the Spanglishilean speakers roaring with laughter—and many of the newcomers scratching their heads—with a story about a guy from work.

I asked her if I could post it here at Cachando Chile, and we ended up getting our chuckles while playing linguistic ping-pong with it for a few days until we finally came up with this version. Test your own level of Spanglishilean (and have a little bad translation fun) with this doozy:


There’s a rooster of the glue who told me his worse-is-nothing had improved herself and brought a baron to light at 3 in the morning.

The uncle said his creature may not have arrived with a hard roll under the arm, but he waits he was born standing up, like he was. What it will be, always that he doesn’t convert to a bad duck or a spear. He hopes he will finish at least his medium learning and perhaps make himself a frog, like his co-father, helping the microphone operators who drive like testicles.

The wedding was very happy they had a man for the end, since they already had 3 women. His wife doesn’t have any hair on her tongue and said that now that they have a man, she’s going to close the factory and go back to selling broken underpants on the microphones in the center of James, where they live in their half water.

Maybe it was big-footed of my part, but I asked the crazy man what wave, and he said his half orange and the snotty were passing it pig. I’m going to take her some cardinals—they enchant me because they are meat dog.


So, how’d you do? ¿Lo cachaste al tiro? Congratulations!
Consider yourself a fluent Spanglishilean speaker (I dare you to put that on your resume!).

Didn’t quite get that? Don’t worry… take a deep breath, and let’s walk through this together.

If you speak Spanish, take a moment to translate it and see what you come up with. Los que hablan chilensis lo cacharán rapidito

If you don’t speak Spanish, feel free to just skip down to the end for a Spanglishilean to English translation… the rest of us will catch up later.

OK, Spanish speakers… Got that translation ready? Is it making sense now? No? Looks like you’re not up to speed on your Chilean!

Try this:

Hay un gallo de la pega que me dijo que su peor es nada se había mejorado y dio luz a un varón a las 3 de la mañana.

El tío dijo que capaz que su criatura no haya llegado con la marraqueta bajo el brazo, pero espera que haya nacido tan parado como él. Lo que sea, siempre que no se convierta en un pato malo o un lanza. Espera que termine por lo menos su enseñanza media y quizás hacerse sapo, como su compadre, ayudando a los micreros que manejan como pelotas.

El matrimonio estaba muy feliz por haber tenido un hombre por fin, porque ya tenían 3 mujeres. Su mujer no tiene pelos en la lengua y dijo que ahora que tenían un hombre, iba a cerrar la fábrica y volver a vender calzones rotos en las micros en el centro de Santiago, donde viven en su media agua.

Quizás fui patuda de mi parte, pero pregunté al loco qué onda y me dijo que su media naranja y el mocoso estaban pasándolo chancho. Le voy a llevar unos cardenales; me encantan porque son carne perro.

Huh? You speak Spanish and you still didn’t get it? This, dear friends, is pure Chilensis.

Need an interpreter? Let’s go!

Some of these terms are regular Spanish, others are pure Chilean:

Gallo (rooster) = a guy

La pega (the glue) = work

Peor es nada (worse is nothing) = wife, in this case, but also used for husband

Mejorarse (improve oneself) = literally, to get better, though here, to have a baby

Dar luz (give light) = to give birth

Varón (baron) = man (Chileans use this term for a baby boy) Note: varón is not really baron, but since v and b are pronounced the same, it sounds the same.

Tío (uncle) = guy

Criatura (creature) = baby, child

Nacer con la marraqueta bajo el brazo (to be born with a hard roll under the arm) = to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth or to bring luck to the family

Nacer parado (to be born standing up) = to be lucky, born under a lucky star

Pato malo (bad duck) = hoodlum, thug

Lanza (spear) = pick-pocket or purse-snatcher type thief

Enseñanza media (medium learning) = high school

Sapo (frog) = person who lets the bus drivers know when the last bus along their route passed. They get the name from jumping on and off the buses all day.

Compadre (co-father) = literally god-father to your child, but often used to refer to a close friend

Micrero (microphone operator) = bus driver

Manejar como pelotas (drive like testicles) = to drive badly. To do something “como pelotas” is to do it badly.

Matrimonio (wedding) = a married couple. In Spain a wedding is a boda, but in Chile the term matrimonio refers to the ceremony as well as the couple.

Tener un hombre (have a man) = have a boy / son

Tener 3 mujeres (have 3 women) = have 3 girls / daughters

No tiene pelos en la lengua (doesn’t have hair on her tongue) = to be outspoken

Cerrar la fábrica (close the factory) = stop having babies

Calzones rotos (broken underpants) = typical Chilean fried dough pastry

Las micros (the microphones) = the buses (for some reason “micro” uses the feminine article la)

Santiago (James) = San Santiago in Spanish is Saint James in English

Media agua (half water) = a very basic, simple house

Ser patuda (big-footed) = to be overly forward, cross the line, push the limits

Loco (crazy man) = guy

Qué onda (what wave) = what’s up

Media naranja (half orange) = wife (or husband), like referring to one’s “better half”

Mocoso (snotty) = kid, young child (like saying “rugrat”)

Pasarlo chancho (pass it pig) = have a good time

Cardenales (cardinals) = carnations

Carne perro (meat dog) = this should really be carne de perro, but the “de” usually gets dropped out when spoken. It generally means tough, resistant, impossible to kill. In this specific case, flowers that are easy to grow.

(You can see more terms like these in the Cachando Chile Glossary).

Got that? Want a real translation now? How’s this:

There’s a guy from work who told me his wife had had a baby boy at 3 in the morning.

The guy said his son may not have been born wealthy, but he hopes he’s as lucky as he is. Whatever, as long as he doesn’t turn into a hoodlum or a pick-pocket. He hopes he will at least finish high school and maybe become a bus assistant, like his buddy who helps the bus drivers, who drive like idiots.

The couple was very happy that they had finally had a boy, because they already had 3 girls. His wife is really outspoken and said that now that they had a son, she was going to stop having kids and go back to work selling pastries on the buses in downtown Santiago, where they live in their little house.

Maybe I was out of line, but I asked the guy what was up, and he said both his wife and the rug-rat were having a great time. I’m going to take her some carnations—I love them because they last so long.

Many thanks to Eileen Shea for coming up with this great word game and letting me play too!

If you enjoyed this, take a wander over to see what Abby’s been up to (More word games on Abby’s Line).

And be sure to have a look at what Eileen at Bearshapedsphere  has to say about “Dead men knocking at the door.

Annje also takes the bait. Check her story out at “Annje Speaks Chilensis.”

Anyone else want to try? This could make for a great group blog… give it a shot, post to your blog, and let me know so we can cross link!

Update:  Also see the related  “Gringas die Laughing” post to see the reaction to this one!


59 responses to “Chilean Spanglish Spoken Here: A Rooster from the Glue

  1. Pingback: Chilespouses, 9 years and going strong « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  2. That is great!!! It enchanted me!!!:)

  3. Thanks! With much gusto!

  4. LOL! Very funny, and actually useful, too. I’m linking you to Mark it Right.

  5. Pingback: Is Spanglishilean a word? « Mark it Right

  6. Thanks- be sure and check out the glossary page too. And I loved your blog (translators and language geeks- take a look at Delighted Scribbler’s “Mark it Right” language blog!)

  7. Nice stuff! I’d like to recommend another resource for those interested in funny Spanglishilean; Tomas Bradanovic has been commenting on Chilean culture for years in both English and Spanglishilean. He lives in Arica.

  8. What wave with this rooster?
    Matt- you get THIS stuff down and you’ll fit right in with your huaso neighbors!

  9. I am the only Chilean-born Chilespouse who was present when the Founding Mothers begot this unique Yahoo -Group we all share. I get up every morning and the first thing I do is open my Outlook Express. Some times I gag because there are 43 emails I have to read through, but rare is the day when I do not find one that is useful to me. Chilespouses is No. 1 in my heart !
    Like I said I am Chilean, but even so I had to read the above twice before I understood it. La Cola, Varón and Compadre were all hard to decipher!
    I love you (us) guys!
    Sonia Hofstadt

  10. Hi Sonia!
    We missed you at the dinner the other night!
    And I do have to say that this version is more complicated than the version that Eileen read the other night (we got carried away and had a lot of fun with it).
    I love playing with language and this space in between English and Spanish leaves a lot of room for sick minds to play!

  11. This is great! I laughed so hard. I don’t know if I could recreate my own though…you guys set the bar high!

  12. Aw, C’mon Abby! You can do it! It’s not that hard really… start with a short slang text… think of a regular conversation your hear on the street everyday… then start translating it back (you can even use a machine translator like babelfish to get started) Then let the fun begin… Some expressions are just MADE for this (like no hair on the tongue) and others you need to play with to get alternative meanings. Give it a shot!

  13. No sé si se repetierá esto en los lenguajes informales de otros países, pero en el ejemplo que Ud. coloca en su texto queda claro que los chilenos usamos muchas analogías zoológicas: gallo, cabro, mono, perro, vaca, chancho, etc… Existe una historia de un chileno que fue testigo de un asesinato en Argentina y llegó histérico a un cuartel policial gritando: “¡Un GALLO mató a una CABRA!”. Sólo después de un rato pudieron comprender a qué se refería.

  14. ¡Ai, qué bueno!!! Me encantó! Ya me estás dando ideas para otras historias del estilo!

  15. The oldest of these spanglishiliries is of course:

    Between no more and drink a chair

  16. ha-ha… I hadn’t heard the drink a chair part before!

  17. Yeah, spanglishilean is significant, but you haven’t seen nuthin’ til you try Japanese onomatopoeia. It’s a complete, stand alone vocabulary, insane! I’m not going to get into it any further than that, I have a lot to do today and I don’t need any extra challenges!

  18. Wow, I BET! And ditto on the extra challenges for the day… 11:30 on a Sunday night and still working!

  19. So I was up for the challenge, even though it took awhile 😉

  20. Hmm..I tried to comment before but looks like it didn’t work. I was up to the challenge, even though it took a little while.


  21. Abby- for some reason the first comment got spammed–don’t know why…
    I loved your post… but you need to give it a better title… why sell yourself short? It was great!

  22. You know I loved this post, and Abby’s sister post! The link for my dead men knocking post seems broken, so I’ll lead people to it: and I hope people realize just how insane it is to have both languages running through your mind at any one time.

    My niece caught me taking a picture of a coffee can the other day called Pico. I had to explain how there’s Spanish, and how there’s Chilean, and how sometimes (often) they just don’t add up!

  23. Very funny. I believed that “el sapo” had that nickname because he (usually is a man) was “sapeando,” or carefully watching what was going on. Frogs have big eyes, you know. If you stare at somebody, s/he could tell you “Que mirai,… sapo!”

  24. Some inside info:
    Sapo is not for leaping, rather is because they watch and inform, in fact the expression stems from informant.
    Maneja como LAS pelotas, no further explanations.
    Calzones rotos: RIPPED underpants.
    LAS micros, from the old cranky góndolas,basically a truck with some seats. LAS góndolas, las micros.
    Carne perro: carne ‘e perro from carne de perro.
    Media Agua: only the wooden panel prefabricated house, since they have only a single tin falling roof, half roof: media agua.
    The reference to animals comes from the colonial era, when most of Chileans were related to farm chores.

  25. Hi Manny-
    Yes, I know that sapo often means spy or snitch… never thought about it stemmiong from having big eyes! good point!

  26. Hi Paul-
    Yesp on the sapo… my chilenísima suegra says its for all the jumping they do… but of course they are watching and informing at the same time!
    “roto” usually means broken, and the idea of “broken” underpants is funnier than “ripped” (which is, of course, more literal… because how can underpants be broken?” I saw a Brit translation as Ripped Knickers, which I thought was great!
    Thanks for resolving the “la micro” mystery!! I’ve always wondered… one less thing to keep me up at night!

  27. Dear Margaret:
    If you don’t already know, the expression “roto” in reference to Chilean nationals was originated during the Conquest of Chile. After a hefty “preventive attack” launched by almost all native tribes, the Spanish “conquistadores”, had a real bad time eating roots and leather stuff. When some of they reached Lima for food and supplies, they had their European clothes all ripped. So they were nicknamed the “rotos” from Chile. Surely the expression contained also some moral connotation.

  28. Descueve to blog, me encanto!
    Un abrazo

  29. Tengo más
    Pichanga: 1revoltijo de pedazos de jamón, queso, coliflor, pickles se sirve como pa pikar. 2 juntarse a jugar a la pelota “soccer” en el barrio.
    Pelotera o Despelote: desorden de algo “untidy”

  30. Paul-thanks for the explanation of roto chileno! That explains the dual sense of disrespect on one side along with pride on the other!

  31. Hola Solange-un millon! Estoy re-chocha con la respesta q’ ha llegado al blog!

  32. At first, I was thinking, “Man, do I need to sign up for brush-up classes at Chicago’s Instituto Cervantes OR WHAT?” But it just reminds me that there’s SO much more to speaking a language than just SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE. It’s learning the idioms and the slang and all the fun phrases and words that give languages their vibrancy and make them fun. Sadly, it seems you only develop that level of intimacy with a language by living in 24 hours a day. But this was a fun read!


  33. Pingback: Grating the Potato «

  34. Pingback: Gringas die laughing « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  35. Y la lola y su pololo? Hay una guaguita? Metinka que si.

    Chao, pesca’o!

  36. ¡De veras! ¿ves? la lista nunca se acaba!

  37. The word tinca (tinka), tincada, me tinca, tincudo (sexy man) comes from Quechua language as well as wawa (guagua, bebé, baby).
    Pololo, originally, a very persistent Chilean flying beetle.
    Lola: “Dolores, Lola, Lolita, Lola” (sung).

    Best regards to all gringas.

  38. The best is “worse is nothing” – peor es nada – wife, JAJAJAJAJAJAJA.
    I have another chilean classic..HUEÓN.

  39. There’s even a TOWN called Peor es Nada… I’ve always wondered the history behind it… Why would anyone choose to name their town something like THAT? so now with this new idea of it meaning “wife,” I can’t help but wonder if some guy thought he was being funny and instead of naming it Saint something he chose this in his señora’s “honor”??

  40. Margaret:

    Pls, relax.
    Peor es nada is mostly used by wives in reference to their husbands.
    Guys use to call “bruja” (witch) to their usually best asset.
    Not very polite, but “es lo que hay”.

  41. Paul, I just KNEW you were going to have an answer for this one! Thanks… it all makes so much more sense now… (as she snickers)
    But honestly… any idea why the town is called Peor es Nada?

  42. Margaret:

    Your anticipation on my possible reaction makes this teaching/learning exercise warmer.

    On “Peor es nada” locality, not town , since it comprises just some houses along a route.
    The story goes like this:
    Many years ago, a bunch of brothers inherited some land state in that Chimbarongo area.
    Well, the youngest was entitled to the less valuable. So he had exclaimed: “Worst is nothing…”

    Be happy.

  43. Hm… As simple as that… Thanks!
    Now… any idea about Putaendo?

  44. Margaret:
    Putaendo in Mapuche (Mapudungún) means “where the spring water forms swamps”.
    So, it has nothing to do with Spanish words.
    Some folks used to joke saying that Pinochet was born in that town, and in that manner he became a Son of Putaendo.
    Though his family is from that area.

  45. ha-ha-ha… good one.
    One of my earlier posts was on Chilean place names… looks like I’m going to have to do an update… pretty fascinating!
    Thanks as always Paul!
    (This interaction is the best thing about blogging!)

  46. Pingback: Annje speaks Chilensis « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  47. “Tío” meaning guy is a well known Spaniardism, second only to “coño”. If you ever heard a Chilean saying “ese tío” he or she probably was mocking a Spaniard.

  48. Absolutely from Spain, but I often hear it used in common speech, not as mocking, but sí as a cross-over type adaptation.

  49. What about this one : ” Es lo que hay! ” or ” no estoy ni ahi ! ”


    PD: cuando vamos a carretear ???

  50. More good ones for the list! It just never ends!

  51. Estos no tienen idea de “cuanto vale el litro” que se los diga el “Huacho’culebra”

  52. Im auto-chilenandome alone,i fell in love by the way y’all speak,very interested in visiting too….
    I did get some of the joke in Spanish but the glossary helped,i thought it was very good and funny!

  53. Pingback: Cachando Chile: a Year in Review « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  54. Actually dear Margaret, the term “micro” comes from “microbus” which is a small kind of bus (we call the “bus” to the interurban kind of), so is not related to a microphone.

    Congratulations for your work!

    Jorge Silva

  55. Hola Jorge-Disculpa no haberte contestado antes- estaba fuera de Stgo festejando como la buena chilena que me siento en mi país adoptada…
    Sí, sabemos que “micro” se refiere al bus, pero estábamos usando (bueno, forzando) la licencia poética un poco por efectos humorísticos! ¡Jugando nomás!
    Gracias por escribir y espero que volverás a comentar en otros momentos! Me encanta que la gente se expresa, opina e incluso discuta con los temas, así vamos aprendiendo todos!

  56. Pingback: It’s not as good as the Rooster at the Glue, but I tried… « Abby's Line

  57. Pingback: Fame « Abby's Line

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