lunfardo

Argentine tango

An essential element for becoming an advanced tango dancer

We all want to become an advanced tango dancer. Who doesn’t want to dance like the Argentine masters we watch in the festivals and on Youtube? Many of us would spend lots of effort and time in honing our technique and skill, but there’s one element that we often overlook which is crucial for us to become a real tanguero- Spanish.

 

Tango is a dance originated in Argentina, and with all the expressions, technical terms and lyrics in Spanish, it is impossible for anyone who doesn’t speak the language to fully understand the art.

 

In this video, Stella Missé, an Argentine tango master, will tell you why it is important to learn Spanish for tango:

 

There are at least 4 reasons for why learning Spanish is essential during your tango journey:

 

1. Jump-start your tango learning

 

 

I always remember how speaking Spanish helped in my earlier stage of tango: in the first month the teacher taught us how to do “ocho” and “lápiz“. Knowing the 2 Spanish words helped to form vivid images that sticked to my mind-“ocho” is the tracing of a “8” on the floor, and “lápiz” is drawing circles with your free leg imaging it is a pencil.

 

Later we were taught more complicated terms like enrosque and ocho cortado, and I saw that many other students had great difficulty memorizing them and they would stumble over the pronunciation even after years of dancing.

 

2. Essential for visiting Buenos Aires

 

Many devoted dancers would visit Buenos Aires-the mecca of tango, so to experience the tango culture and perfecting their skill. If you are one of them, then you should make sure you have learnt some basic Spanish before going.

 

Dancers who don’t speak Spanish often experience a lot of daily inconveniences traveling in the city: you would find everything – from directions in public transport to the menus in restaurants- are in Spanish. Most of the group tango classes would also be in Spanish. Even though some teachers may offer some English translation, it would usually be brief and not cover the whole teaching. Many times I would see  some fellow students coming to the class eager to learn, but left disappointed because they couldn’t follow the teaching.

 

3. Connecting to the mood of music

 

Many non Spanish-speaking dancers would find it easier to dance to instrumental tango because they have difficulty connecting to the emotion of a vocal tango. In fact, dancing to a song which you can’t understand the lyrics can be confusing. Some people may guess the mood of the song from the rhythm, but many times a rhythmical, seemingly lighthearted song may come with sad lyrics. So listening to the music without knowing the meaning of the lyrics may not always give the right judgement.

 

4. Crucial for interpreting of tango

 

What makes a performance by a couple of Argentine masters stands out from the others is often not only the technique, but the way how they interpret the song. In order to understand the sentiment of the song, you have to be able to understand the Spanish lyrics and sometimes the history and story behind the song.

 

This video shows Alejandra Mantinan and Aoniken Quiroga dancing to the song “Tormenta” (Storm). What makes their performance powerful and moving is that they have expressed the emotion of the song wholeheartedly through their movement and facial expression.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOfMquXfwy4

 

*“¡Aullando entre relámpagos,

(Howling between the lightnings,)

 

perdido en la tormenta

(lost in the storm)

 

de mi noche interminable,

(of my endless night,)

 

¡Dios! busco tu nombre…

(God! I seek your name …)

 

No quiero que tu rayo

(I don’t want your lightning)

 

me enceguezca entre el horror,

(blinding me in the horror,)

 

porque preciso luz para seguir…

because I need light to go on …

 

So how could we begin learning Spanish for tango?

 

One way to start is by taking Tango Spanish Skype classes  with Argentine teachers who are tangueras from Buenos Aires. They are experienced in teaching foreign students at all levels and would understand the special needs of tango dancers in learning the language.

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

Also check out the book “Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel tips” in which you can find a method tailored for tangueros to learn Spanish, as well as tips and useful Spanish phrases for your next tango trip!

 

*Lyrics and English translation adapted from https://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/tormenta/

 

Argentine Slangs you’d never guess their real meaning!

Argentine slangs are used all the time in conversations throughout Argentina. It's not only among the youth, but at any age. If you don't know their meaning, it's impossible for you to understand what an Argentine is trying to say! Many phrases are so well-known by locals, that they would always prefer the slang intead of the more formal word that you'd actually learn at school or in books. Ready to learn about the weirdest phrases and its origins? Once you learn the origin of the phrase, it becomes a bit easier to retain the meaning!

De cayetano

If a person tells you to do something "de cayetano" (in Spanish: hacer algo de cayetano) they want you to do it in silence, with a low profile. Although the word is the same as the saint (San Cayetano), this expression has nothing to do with the saint. It actually comes from the word "callar" (to silence). In Lunfardo words were sometimes changed so that if somebody else heard what they were saying they wouldn't understand. So instead of telling someone to do something quietly (hacelo callado), they would say: "hacelo de cayetano".


¡Andá a cobrarle a Magoya!

This Argentine expression literally means "Go charge Magoya!" and it is used when you want to tell someone that he/she isn't getting paid. The surnames Magoya and Montoto are always used in these phrases, meaning they are people you will never find. They are ways of referring to an inexistent person.

Perdido como turco en la neblina

This slang phrase means "to be lost as a Turk in the fog" and it is used when a person is totally lost or clueless. But the origin of the phrase is more interesting. In the times when the Moors invaded the Spanish, the Spanish would call the wine that was pure (the one that wasn't diluted with water) "Moor wine" or also "Turk wine", cause it was not "sanctified" or "baptized" like the Moors. From then on, they would refer to drunkenness as a "Turk". So if you're lost as a Turk in the fog it means you're lost as a drunk person in the middle of the fog.So if you have a friend that is acting a bit clueless or lost tell him/her: "¡Estás perdido/a como turco en la neblina!"


Versero

When you call a person "versero" you're saying he/she's a liar.
It comes from the slang verb "versear" that means to lie. It's not only used when talking about a liar, but also when a person tends to tell unbelievable stories and you feel they might be untrue!

Gauchada

The word "gauchada" comes from the word "gaucho" (and a "gaucho" is a South American cowboy, we explained this earlier in another post). A "gauchada" is a favour.
Some examples on how to use it:
- ¿Me hacés una gauchada? (Would you do me a favour?)
- Mi amigo siempre me hace la gauchada cuando lo necesito (My friend always helps me when I need him).


No caza una

When you want to say that someone doesn't understand anything at all, you can say that person "¡No caza una!". The verb "cazar" (to hunt) has other meanings as well. One is "to understand something easily".


Sos Gardel

When a person tells you that you are Gardel (¡Sos Gardel!) they are trying to say you are at the top, you are the one in the best position, you're lucky, you're the envy of everyone, etc. For example, if you have air conditioning on a very hot day, you're Gardel. (We're sure you're aware of who Gardel is, but just in case, he's the most famous Argentine tango singer of all times).


La verdad de la milanesa

When a person tells "la verdad de la milanesa" (the truth of the "milanesa"), it means this person is is telling the real deal, an irrefutable truth. "Milanesa" is one of the most typical dishes in Argentina. There has been a lof of debate on the origin of this dish (whether it comes from Vienna or Milan, or somewhere else), and so when a person has "la verdad de la milanesa" (the truth of the milanesa - referring to the fact that this person knows the true origin of the dish) it means this person is telling the truth, knows a lot about what he/she is saying, etc. Or, in other Argentine words, "la tiene clara" (knows the real deal).

Hacer gancho

This expression is used when someone is trying to play matchmaker. "Hacer gancho" is to help two people to meet and maybe start dating.
- No me hagas gancho con Juan, que no me interesa.
(Don't arrange me with Juan, as I'm not interested).

Cara rota

If a person is "cara rota" (literally "broken face") it means this person is shameless. Other words for this are "caradura" and "careta". There is a very famous tango song by Gardel called "cara rota" that describes this type of person very well, saying he tries to get things for free, take advantage of friends, etc. 

 Which one is your favourite? Comment below! Or check our blog posts below for related articles.

Lunfardos Tango

7 essential Lunfardos for tango (Part 2)

After our last Lunfardos blog post (7 Lunfardos for Tango (Part 1)), we have received a lot of requests for more Lunfardo words. So here you go our second collection of 7 essential Lunfardo words for tango, enjoy!

 

 

1. Metejón

Metejón means a crush or a crazy love.

“Milonga sentimental”, a popular milonga song, tells a story of a man who went to a milonga and thought about his lover that had left him. The lyrics describe how he was mad in love and crushed by her betrayal:

 

“Pero no es fácil cortarse

(But it is not easy to cut off)

los tientos de un metejón

(tentacles of a crush)

cuando están bien amarrados

(when they are tightly attached)

al palo del corazón”

(to the carcass of the heart)

 

Listen to “Milonga sentimental” by Orquesta Canaro and singer Ernesto Fama here:

 

2. Bombón

The Spanish word “bombón”, as you can probably guess, refers to candy, especially those that are coated with chocolate. In Argentina the word carries the double meaning of an attractive man or woman or a sweetheart.

In this beautiful song “bomboncito”, the lyricist poured out his heart and expressed without hesitation how his “bomboncito”, his little sweetie has taken his heart totally, and how her love does wonder to his life.

 

Dejame

(Let me)

que te diga despacito

(let me tell you slowly)

bomboncito… bomboncito…

(my little sweetie… my little sweetie…)

dueña de mi corazón.

(owner of my heart.)

 

Una vez más mi emoción

(Once again my excitement)

repetirá la canción

(will repeat the song)

milagro de tu amor

(miracle of your love)

y de mi amor

(and of my love.)

 

Listen here the song Bomboncito interpreted by Orquestra Salamanca and singer Armando Guerrico here

3. Afilar

The standard meaning of the word you would find in the dictionary is to “sharpen”, for example, Juan afila sus lápices (Juan sharpen his pencils).

However, in Lunfardo, the word takes on another meaning: to be in love (enamorar), or to court someone (cortejar).

Example: Pablo afila con esa mina pero no es muy serio.

(Pablo is courting that woman but he isn’t that serious.)

 

4. Botón

Botón” in Lunfardo means police or guard. Legend has it that Lunfardo is a secret language invented by the street gangs in Buenos Aires so that the “botón” would not understand what they are saying.

 

5. ¡Aire!

Aire means air, but if someone at Buenos Aires says to you in a milonga “¡Aire!”, he may actually be telling you to get out from there immediately, as “¡Aire!” in Lunfardo carries the meaning of “¡Afuera!, márchate, vete” (Leave now!).

An interesting fact here to note is that the literal meaning of “Buenos Aires” is “Good air”.

 

6. Amarguear

As you would probably know, mate is a big part of Argentine culture, and the Lunfardo word “Amarguear” refers to the action of taking a mate (tomar mate), and more precisely, mate without sugar, as the word is very likely formed based on the adjective “amargo” (bitter).

 

7. Chorro

Chorro” (or “choro”) means thief, and “chorear” is the verb form of the act (to steal).

The tango song “chorra” is about a man who was tricked by the lie of his lover, and in 6 months he went bankrupt and lost everything he earned from his hard work, so in the song, the man called his past lover a “chorra”:

 

En seis meses me fundiste el mercadito,

(In six months you bankrupted my little market,)

la casilla de la feria, la ganchera, el mostrador…

(the stand at the fair, the hooks, the counter…)

 

¡Chorra!

(Thief!)

Me robaste hasta el amor…”

(You even stole my love…)

 

Listen to this song by the Orquesta Alfredo de Angelis here

 

Interested in learning Spanish for a deeper understanding of tango culture? Check out our Tango Spanish course by our Argentine Spanish teachers who are tangueras from Buenos Aires!

slang

Popular Slang words and phrases used in Argentina

Slang words in Argentina

Slang words and idiomatic expressions, as we’ve explained in previous posts like 7 Essential Lunfardos for tango and Speak Spanish like an Argentine , are used in Argentina a lot, and you will need to learn them if you want to clearly understand what Argentines are talking about!

In this post we are covering some very popular words that people use most of the time in informal contexts like when you’re talking to a friend or relative, or when you are at an informal event, or even at work (try to avoid them when addressing your boss!)

Let’s check them out:

Salir rajando: To leave a place really quickly, especially cause you are in real hurry, want to escape or need to be somewhere else soon.


“Estar fusilado” (Literally when someone receives a shot by firearm) it means to be extremely tired, exhausted. Example: “Estuve todo el día en el gimnasio, estoy fusilado” (I was at the gym all day, I’m really tired)

In which situation would you use this slang phrase?


“No pasa naranja” – When someone asks “¿Qué pasa?” (What happens?) sometimes people respond “No pasa naranja” or just “Naranja” instead of saying “Nada” (Nothing). It’s a very informal and funny way of answering!


“Sacate la gorra” (Literally: Take out your hat) – It’s a very informal expression to tell someone to stop acting like a policeman.

Example: “No me controles, ¡sacate la gorra!” (Don’t control me, take out your hat (or actually, stop acting like the police).

 

“¡Buen finde!” = It means “Have a nice weekend” but instead of saying “fin de semana” (weekend) we shorten the word and it becomes, as we show in the picture, “finde”.

 

“Quemarse la cabeza” (Literally: To burn your head”) means to worry a lot about something or to be upset about a problem.
For example: “No te quemes la cabeza, ella no era para vos”. (Stop worrying, she wasn’t the right one for you)

 

Apolillar – To rest or sleep. Apparently it derives from the Neapolitan word “apolaiare” that would come from “apolaio”, the henhouse. “Apolaiare” in the countryside referred to the time when the hens would go to sleep at night.
Example: Me voy a apolillar. I’m going to bed/to sleep.

7 essential lunfardos for tango

Lunfardo is an Argentine slang which frequently appears in tango lyrics.

 

In this blog we will be looking at the meanings and usage of  7 common lunfardos, since they always appear in tango lyrics, knowing them will greatly help your understanding of the lyrics as well as the tango culture!

 

1. Malevo

Malevo is a word originated from the latin adverb malé, which refers to “man who is a gang or a troublemaker living in the slum in Buenos Aires. The word is slowly adopted to represent the male characters in tango (and perhaps porteños in general): liberal; living a bad life with a humble root; macho and brave; believing in his own way of seeing life; seeing love as a game, but a game that he needs to play by giving his all.

 

But whatever kind of life the malevo is leading, there’s one thing we can always be sure: he loves tango.

 

2. Mina

Mina is perhaps the most commonly used Lunfardo word nowadays in Buenos Aires or Montevideo. Instead of meaning a “mine” like “coal mine” or “gold mine” in standard Spanish, it refers to woman and it comes from the Italian word “femmina” (which means female, and also girl or daughter)

 

However, in tango “mina” sometimes carries other meanings: prostitute; woman who lives with a man; woman who has an illicit relationship with a man; a concubine; a lover.

 

One of the most well-known tango songs in which you can find the word is “Patotero sentimental” (The sentimental gangster, Orchestra Carlos Di Sarli/Singer Roberto Rufino):

Ya los años se van pasando,

y en mi pecho no entra un querer,

En mi vida tuve muchas, muchas minas,

pero nunca una mujer…

 

(Many years have passed by,

but there never enter an affection in my heart,

in my life I have had many, many women,

but never a wife.

 

3. Pibe

Pibe refers to kid or boy in Lunfardo (and for girl would be “Piba”). It is believed to be derived from “pive” from the Genoese dialect of Italian, or “pivello” or “pivèll”, of the dialect of Lombardy, and all these words carry a meaning of “youth” or “apprentice”.

 

The tango song “El sueño del pibe” (The dream of a boy, Orchestra Osvaldo Pugliese/Singer Roberto Chanel) tells a story of a “pibe” who had a dream in which he had been taken by a football club, and would be able to make a better life for his dear mom. The song mentions Diego Maradona, one of the greatest Argentine soccer players, who happened to carry the nickname “El Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Boy).

 

Watch the video of Maradona singing “El sueño del pibe”!

 

4.Yeta

In Lunfardo, Yeta is equal to “mala suerte” (bad luck). So you may hear a porteño (someone living in Buenos Aires) exclaiming “Qué yeta!” instead of “Qué mala suerte!” when he has run into bad luck. It is believed that the word originates from “jettatura” and “jettatore” of the Neapolitan dialect of Italian, meaning “evil influence” or “A person bringing harm or bad luck to another”. It started gaining popularity among the working class before it was spread in the whole Buenos Aires society.

 

You can hear the word “Yeta” right in the first line of the lyrics of Preparate pal’ Domingo (Prepare yourself for the Sunday) by Orchestra Edgardo Donato/Singer Carlos Almada:  

 

Preparate pa’l domingo si querés cortar tu yeta…

(Prepare yourself for Sunday if you want to avoid bad luck…)

 

5. Chamuyar

Chamuyar (or chamullar) means to chat; or to have a conversation, which usually happens when a man is trying to pick up women. Sometimes it also refers to using a mix of truths and lies to achieve a goal.

 

It is believed that chamuyar came from the word caló (from a gypsy dialect) which means to chat or to converse or to tell an excuse for covering, for example, being late to work, or forgetting to do something.

 

Chamuyero would mean someone who is chatty, or a liar

 

6.  Yira

 

In Lunfardo, yira means to wander; or to walk slowly without a specific goal or purpose. It is believed that the word originates from the Italian verb “girare”, which means to meander.

 

Yira is similar to Spanish verbs like “pasear”, “andar” or “dar una vuelta”, but is distinct in the feeling it conveys: a slothful, lazy manner without any interest in rushing to a location or getting anything done.

 

The most famous appearance of the word would be in “Yira, yira” of Carlos Gardel:

Verás que todo es mentira

Verás que nada es amor

Que al mundo nada le importa

Yira, yira

 

(You will see everything is a lie

Nothing is love

which for the world nothing is important,

Yira, yira)

 

7.Mango

Instead of referring to the yellow-skinned tropical fruit which may be your favorite in summer, “mango” in Lunfardo means money (dinero, peso). If someone says “No tengo un mango” it would mean he/she is totally broke.

 

It is believed that “mango” is derived from the 19th Century word “Marengo” which gangs used for referring to money made from bad means or easy money.

 

Mango” can also be found in the lyrics of “Yira, Yira” by Carlos Gardel:

…buscando ese mango

que te haga morfar…

 

(…You are finding the money

That allows you to eat…)

 

Check out Speak Spanish Like Argentine to learn more about the history of Lunfardo!

Want to learn more tango Spanish? Book a lesson with our Argentine teacher!

Speak Spanish like an Argentine! Learn voseo, yeísmo and lunfardo.

Speak Spanish like an Argentine!

Argentinian Spanish differs a lot from European Spanish. Due to several historical reasons, it has some characteristics that make it unique. Let’s find out!

 

Speak Spanish like an Argentine! Learn voseo, yeísmo and lunfardo.
2009.09: El Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina by Rodrigo Accurcio, cc by 2.0
  1. A “weird” pronunciation of Spanish words…Yeísmo?

 

The Argentine dialect is popular both among other Latin American countries as well as in Spain for having a very particular way of pronouncing the sound of letters “Y” and “LL” of Spanish language. Have you heard about this? In most Spanish-speaking countries these two sounds are similar, and pronounced like the “y” in the English word “yes”. However, in Argentina and Uruguay the sound is more like the “sh” English sound found in “shop”.

 

Do you want to practice? Check these words, and try pronouncing them both in the Spanish way and in the Argentinian way:

  • Lluvia.
  • Yo.
  • Playa.
  • Caballo.

 

2. They don’t use “tú” for informal treatment:

 

And so, what do they say when they talk to friends or family? They say “vos“. In the Rio de la Plata region (Argentina and Uruguay) people use “vos” instead of “tú” to address someone informally. The conjugation of the verb also changes (check out the table below).

 

In Argentina its use is strict, they hardly ever use “tú”. Uruguayans, however, use “tú” with the conjugation of “vos” and they use the words “tú” and “vosindisctinctly. They seldom conjugate verbs in the “tú” form.

 

One more thing: The “voseo” is only used in the present and imperative forms.

Verb:                “Vos” form  (present)       Example sentence

SER                         sos                                  Vos sos mi mejor amiga (You’re my best friend).

HABLAR                hablás                            ¡Hablás muy rápido! (You speak too fast!)

COMER                  comés                            ¿No comés verduras? (Don’t you eat veggies?)

ESCRIBIR              escribís                          Escribís lindos mensajes (You write cute messages)

 

3. Lunfardo, a criminal language…

hands-in-chains

Lunfardo appeared in Buenos Aires and Montevideo (the capitals of Argentina and Uruguay) during the second half of the 19th century due to the Italian immigration (the word “lunfardo” comes from the language “Lombardo” and other dialects spoken during those times in the north of Italy and some Swiss cities). Lunfardo was also influenced by the French, the English, the Galician, the Portuguese, and others.

 

Lunfardo started as a prison language, so that guards would not understand what the prisoners were talking about. Many of its expressions came with the arrival of European immigrants (mainly Italians) and other words actually came from the Argentine Pampa.

 

Some examples of it are:

  • Mina = Woman (It comes from the Italian word “femmina“)
  • Laburar = To work (From the word “lavorare” in Italian)
  • Chau = Bye (From the Italian “ciao”)
  • Quilombo = Mess (African origin, place where slaves lived)
  • Chamuyo = Words used to impress or show off but which are not true.
  • Fiaca = Laziness (From the Italian word “fiacco”).

 

Interested in Argentine Spanish? Book a class with our Argentine teacher!