Sh** Colombians Say, Part 7

I miss you already, accent-less rolos.

Mona

Many people with basic Spanish knowledge will tell you that “mono” means monkey. They’re right…everywhere else. In Colombia, mono or mona is used to describe a person with light skin, hair and eyes. The line at which “mono” is drawn is subtle and confusing. I’ve asked about two nearly-identically colored people – light brown hair, really, with maybe hazel or gold eyes – and one is mono, the other is not. It’s not a negative term in the least, just a describing word for people who stand out of the crowd a bit in the sea of brown hair and brown eyes.

When one forgets the quirkiness of Colombian Spanish, one might tell my host mom in Ecuador that her parents were also monos, causing some innocent confusion. Ibis was not expecting Kate to reply that her parents were monkeys, too.

Vaina

Vaina is a wonderfully useful term meaning…thing. It’s usually more of an abstract thing than a concrete one, but works in almost all situations. The word is hard to explain because it just naturally fits into conversation and language whenever you need a word and can’t narrow it down. It can be an object, but more likely a situation, a problem, a matter, a dilemma, a pickle…

“I don’t have time for those vainas.” “I don’t know what to do with this vaina.” “Oh dear, what a terrible vaina.” “Can you help me with this vaina?” “I’m not getting involved with those vainas.” “So the vaina is this…”

Parce, marica, huevon

The 12-25+ crowd, in any country, loves their informal monikers. We have “dude” and “bro,” the British and Australians have “mate” and Canadians probably have something that I don’t even know about. The Colombian versions are slightly more inappropriate and informal but ever more prominent in conversation. “Marica” and “huevon” are more vulgar in nature, translating, in fact, to things that I would never say in polite company. However, if your Colombian pal says “Hey, marica, where are you?” he’s just playing cool. “Huevon” is more like an insulting endearment, “Uy no, huevon” being along the lines of “No way, dumbass.”

After a few hours with my rugby team or other Colombians my age, I have to actively stop myself from using these terms. You might not know that I am, indeed, college educated and somewhat worldly by listening to some of my conversations with friends, but I’m not about to slip and say it to a coworker or student. It’s funny how language acquisition works – it’s one thing to have the words, and another to internally absorb the appropriate (or inappropriate) context. Thus, even when everyone I’m talking to is dropping “parces” every breath, I really try not to start.

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