Sh** Colombians Say, Part 9: Se pega el accento

*Warning: contains explicit language….in Spanish, so only The Bilingual need to cover their ears (eyes?)

Whilst in Bogotá last month I heard a disgruntled cachaco say “malparido” in the street and my heart absolutely ached for the coast, as my first thought was, “Uush, tan grosero!” and secondly I realized he pronounced every single sound: “mal-par-ee-do.” Osea, I was away from Barranquilla too long. Closer to the ocean, the MP word isn’t okay per se, but it’s certainly not going to turn heads the way it does in the Andes – as long as you drop the “l” and the “d” to make it proper, obviously.

The Colombian coast and its particular Spanish is not meant for everyone, certainly not the fainthearted, but it’s darn catchy and there is no better accent with which to curse someone out, whether joking or serious. While I certainly understand why the intensity and frequency of vulgarities doesn’t hold universal, to me it simply sums up the costeño attitude: laidback enough to know that it’s all in good humor and we’re going to share a bottle of guaro whether or not I honestly think you’re a jueputa. Of course there’s polite society here as well – just because my nickname in certain social circles is Gringa ¿?%*#!@$ doesn’t mean I don’t know when to turn on the filter. This is how we assimilate, kids.

Bulla describes the general state of being in Barranquilla: loud. Bulla is noise; ruckus; uncontrolled chaotic volume. Anyone who has had the privilege of Skyping me from my apartment has experienced the constant roar of buses, honking, hawking, shouting, barking, yes-that’s-a-horse-cart all undermined by champeta or vallenato filling the awkward lulls. Costeños and all their daily activities have one volume and it is not quiet. “Bulla” might be the cheers at Estadio Metropolitano when our beloved Selección is playing, the side effects of a traffic jam or maybe it’s the soundtrack to a good night on the town. No matter the form, bulla is ever-present on the coast.

Corroncho – this is a fun word to say so it was very important that I understood the meaning and usage as soon as possible. Essentially it means something ordinary in the negative sense – low class, trashy, poor-mannered.  Corroncho is when everyone is cooking something at my house and someone sticks their finger in the pot (so, my father on Thanksgiving and always), it’s putting dirty shoes on the bed, even using vulgar language in front of someone with higher moral standing. I’ve heard people from elsewhere in Colombia refer to all costeños as “los corronchos” which is totally not ok – just because it’s not an outwardly classy, polite society doesn’t mean there’s not a distinct and complex set of social norms and accepted behaviors to be observed.  Sometimes, in addition to being a Gringa MP, I am a Gringa Corroncha.

Mamar gallo – it’s not specific to the coast, but it might as well be for its crass literal translation and frequency of use. To mamar gallo is to joke, mess around, waste time. It’s not taking things seriously because let’s face it, it’s 99 degrees outside and life’s short.


Side note: Towards the end of June I was spending every free moment of my life with my Colombian friends, resulting in amazing, fluid  Spanish skillz and a sometimes embarrassing costeño accent. A month in Bogotá running gringo-laden conferences later, within five minutes of catching up with a dear friend here it was, “Wow Bri, your Spanish is shit!” As if I needed another reason to stay.