Colombia is fond of its food, so it’s no surprise to hear that huge portions of food phrases now pepper the nation’s speech. You may hear reference to Colombian food in the following unexpected contexts:
We all know aguacate as the humble avocado in English but in Colombia it can mean something quite different. The word is also used to describe a police officer, thanks to their delightful green uniforms. Come now, it could be a lot worse.
Bananas are so healthy, but in Colombia the term actually means fat around the stomach, like the spare tyre in English. You might hear a Colombian look despondently at his belly, declare: “Mira los bananos que tengo,” and resolve to go to the gym.
Thank goodness for the “good potato”. The good potato is a good person and the phrase is often used to persuade a friend to do you a good turn. It’s not unusual to hear the plea: “Please? Be a good potato with me…” or a friend described as: “Juan is buena papa with me because…”
Chicharron is a Colombian staple, the fried pork found on every bandeja paisa. The only time Colombians complain about chicharron is when they use the word to describe a problem at work, a situation that’s near impossible to solve. You may hear a harrassed friend declare: “I have a chicharron…”
Colombians are not above public displays of affection, but it’s all about moderation. If you hear reference to a couple “sucking pineapple” that means they are kissing a little too passionately and it’s probably best not to look.
“Giving papaya” is best avoided when you travel to any foreign country. It means you have made it easy for someone to take advantage of you. Colombias consider it vital to avoid “giving papaya” and a friend may tell you: “Are you taking public transport? Keep an eye on your valuables. Don’t give papaya.”
A “cookie” or “biscuit” sounds so nice doesn’t it? But in Colombian slang, a galleta is an annoying person whose friendship you can’t seem to shake. You might hear an exasperated Colombian declare, when said person leaves earshot, “Me gane esta galleta,” which is pretty much: “I’ve landed myself with that biscuit.”
An “egg” might not seem much to you or I, but in Colombian slang an egg is a large amount of something, used in the same way as the English word “ton”. A person might say something “cuesta un huevo de plata” in the same way they might describe something costing a ton of money in English.
“Sour milk” has pretty much the same meaning in English slang as its equivalent, mala leche, does in the Colombian vernacular – a bitter, disagreeable person who refuses to come to the aid of anyone else.
The “half orange” in Colombia is the “other half” in English or perhaps, if you’re being charitable, “the better half”. The word is used to describe a person’s partner, usually their husband or wife.
Me gustan las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso
This phrase basically means: “I like my accounts clear and my chocolate thick,” in other words, hot chocolate should be creamy and opaque but money matters must be transparent, so I settle my debts and ensure everything is above board.
Colombians have a great sense of humor but the word naranjas (oranges) definitely falls into “granddad humor” when comedy Colombians use it instead of the word “no”. Some even go one step further and say “naranjas agrias” (sour oranges). “Dad, have you seen my shoes?” “Naranjas!” You get the idea.
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