Sh** Colombians Say, Part 1

A series of posts dedicated to the intricacies of cultural Spanish expressions that offer insight on the Colombian experience. Some may be specific to Latin American Spanish, the Andean region, Colombia, in and around Bogotá, small towns or even the kids at my school. They’ve caught my interest and maybe  found their way into my vocabulary. 

Tranquila is extremely Colombian for “chill out,” “no worries,” “it’s ok,” “no problem,” “go ahead” and virtually every other laid-back idiom. It sounds like a nice expression of the relaxed Colombian lifestyle but it is not what I like to hear when I have a question that would be better answered than brushed off.

“Where’s your homework?” “Tranquila, profe, I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

“Which classes are canceled for (insert any reason in the world here) today?” “Tranquila, we’ll let you know.”

On the contrary it’s nice to have on hand for cultural misunderstandings or really any situation when someone is stressed or upset. Tranquila, I’m over it.

Gas (yes, like gasoline) might be my new favorite colloquial expression of all time. The kids say it to mean “gross,” “ugly,” “bad,” etc. They pronounce it in Spanish, so it sounds like “gahss” and I just love it.

“Los muchachos colombianos son gas.” (Colombian guys are gas.)

“Este partido – gas!” (this game – gas!)

Naturally I’ve started saying and thinking it in English as well. Grading is so gas. Working on Saturdays is gas.


Chevere (also very common in Ecuador) can be likened to “cool” although it’s a bit broader here. People, events, places, music, clothes, pastimes and activities all have chevere potential. It’s not a terribly informal word however, I’ve heard it said in meetings to describe good test scores. My students think it’s funny when I say it, but it’s nearly always a safe, positive description to use.