Argentina has fulfilled my eager to learn new words and phrases in Spanish. But it has also drawn my attention to a different use of words I already knew. The porteños e.g. the citizens of Buenos Aires, repeat the same expressions without even noticing. As if it was the most normal thing in the world because… Well, everyone else says it!
So, if you like me are new to the city, I have put together a little guide to how you can learn to speak like a porteños with 5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires:
1. Mira vos
Literally translated, it means “look at you” but the meaning is not that you should take a look at yourself. It is better understood in the context where it is used.
Mira vos is used when a person is introduced to new and surprising piece of information but don’t really know how to respond to it. Like a sort of exclamation, and usually it is said with a good amount of surprise to add a little more attention or drama to the conversation. It can also just be used as a way of showing that you are paying attention to what the other person is saying.
Mira vos would properly be best translated to English as something like “no shit” or “you don’t say so”. Of course, the use of vos is a particular and common Argentine way to address people which just makes this one so much more porteño!
2. Qué sé yo
This phrase has to be pronounced in a slightly sprawling way with a strong emphasis on the last part: Qúe sé yooo. The English translation is “what do I know” which also is its porteño meaning. Generally, it is used when a person is not be too comfortable in his or her argument or wants to leave the conservation open for other to comment on.
In my classes at the university I hear it a lot when a student has tried to make a statement but aren't sure they got it right, then they add a qué sé yo to sort of soften up their discourse. Equally some of the teachers use it to make an opening for more debate.
3. Qué buena onda
The word onda can best be translated as “vibe”. However, even when knowing that qué buena onda then will be "how good vibe(s)", it does not make a lot of sense… So, better forget a bit about the literal translations.
The expression is used when something is done with good intentions or in a good way. It can be anything: how your boss acted over the grade you got in an exam to the way the taxi driver drove.
Whereas, on the other hand qué mala onda is used when something is done in a negative way. Well, you can decide whether this blog post is buena onda or mala onda?
¿Viste? the guy in the bike shop says to me as he fixs my bike. Es facil (e.g. it is easy), he adds.
¿Viste? is used as a way of underlining your point of view, and translated directly means “do you see?”. It is commonly used to end a phrase as a way of saying "do you see I was right". It is a completely overused word in Buenos Aires, so you can be more than sure to hear it at least a couple of times.
5. La puta que te parió
Let's finish off with a bad one! In general, Spanish – no matter country or region – is filled with all kinds of phrases for swearing... And Argentine Spanish is no exception!
A favorite in the streets of Buenos Aires seems to be la puta que te parió. Literally translated "the hore who gave birth to you". Truely, not a very nice phrase. And then it is just used for all kinds of swearing…