¡Te fajaste!

I was off work on Friday, but we had a little lunch party at the site where I’ve been working for the past few months to celebrate some birthdays. Seven interpreters (Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Kurdish) and two supervisors. I made a recipe for couscous with spinach, nectarines and pistachios that I first made when I lived in Medellín. The palette for flavors and ingredients in Colombia is rather narrow and only slowly opening up to more international influences, so I remember being treated like a gourmet chef down there for cooking with unconventional (for Colombia) things like couscous and pistachios. Also, Dijon mustard. And omelets. And feta cheese. It was fun to have my dishes considered manna from the gods just because I’d add something “exotic” like cumin–you can only eat so much rice and beans.

While eating a second helping of the couscous, my Colombian coworker said, Como decimos en Colombia, ¡te fajaste! A compliment that at the same time teaches me a new word? The best. I told him it was a new word for me, but I didn’t want to be a nerd and dissect his compliment right there while we were all enjoying ourselves. Qué aguafiestas. So, I accepted it gracefully, and once I was home I was able to look it up and really savor it.

Fajar means to wrap so as to hold something in, to swathe, to swaddle. A faja is usually a girdle or corset, and faja stores for women (and men!) are a very common sight in Colombia. A faja can also be a sash or belt. And in medicine, a brace. Faja can also be a skinny strip or band of something, and that’s where we get the word fajitas from– little strips of meat. OK, I knew all that. But what does fajarse mean in Colombia? Because I’m pretty sure my colleague wasn’t commending me for wearing a girdle like the scary ladies in the vintage ad below.



Nope–sure enough, it’s just as he said. In Colombia, fajarse = to do something successfully, to carry something off, to excel, to outdo yourself.

Julián se fajó anoche con semejante discurso.

Julián hit it out of the park last night with that speech of his.

Nathaly se fajó con esa tesis, cómo será, que hasta le ofrecieron beca para Harvard. 

Nathaly aced her thesis, and get this: they even offered her a scholarship to Harvard.

Oye, te fajaste con este post, tanta razón. Felicitaciones. 

Hey, you outdid yourself with this post. So many good points. Congrats.

te fajaste

Fajarse apparently has a few other meanings, many of them regional. Among other things, it can mean to fight, to work hard, to make out with someone and feel them up, to take the bull by the horns and face a difficult situation, and to tuck your shirt in. If you can keep all of these straight (I’ll do my best to try) and demonstrate your fajarse expertise in front of a Colombian, you’ll have no doubt more than earned their ¡te fajaste!

What’s your favorite colloquial or regional way to pay someone a compliment and give them a verbal high five? It’s an area in which I’d like to be a little more succinct, a little more snappy.

4 responses to “¡Te fajaste!

  1. I always thought that fajarse came from boxing (that is your reference to a fight). It’s very old, from the time when boxing was more mainstream. So a boxer that really delivered, was someone que se fajó. Then the word got into more common speech.

    Funny about the food. Yes, the palette is small, but you just mentioned a few things and cumin was one of them (as something “exotic”). That probably reflects regional differences. When I was growing up, there were only two non-perishable condiments around, in addition to salt. They were cumin and safrón (and safrón doesn’t add any flavor that I can easily identify). In terms of perishables, which you keep buying fresh, I remember thyme, parsley, cilantro and onion. Maybe bay leaves? A big no-no is garlic. It is also quite funny that eating beans happens so infrequently that you make a party out of the occasion. It happens usually on a Sunday and you invite people to stop over for an extended lunch, followed by some chatting and maybe a few drinks and music.

    Also, about couscous, I was eating in a restaurant in Madrid, Spain, a little over ten years ago. It was an informal place and the owner was trying to explain to a patron what couscous was… son una bolitas de bla bla bla, or something like that, in a kind of loud voice that implied that it was something really weird. You know, the way some madrileños talk, which makes you think that they are angry. Really funny, particularly since they are so close to Morocco.


    • Hmmm. Maybe it does come from boxing– I wouldn’t know. It’s a good theory!

      I don’t remember cumin being common, but my memory’s pretty creaky these days. Overall, I consider Colombian food pretty bland, con todo el respeto, claro. Garlic is a big no-no? Mmm, ¡no saben lo que se pierden! I’m not sure what saffron tastes like either, but I know I use it when I make Colombian empanadas. Also, cubos de Maggi– bouillon. Yes, you know, I knew as I was writing it that rice and beans was not really intellectually honest. I ate/was served beans incredibly rarely in Bogotá– but they are, of course, common in Antioquia. Fríjoles/frisoles con garra. Con pezuña, y con trocitos de plátano. I should have changed that part, because beans and rice, in my experience, are not nearly as integral a part of the daily diet as they are in many other countries, esp. Central America and the Caribbean. But it’s what Americans think all Latin Americans eat (in addition to thinking they all eat Mexican food), and so I put it because it sounded good/repeated a stereotype. And it was easier and more efficient. Otherwise, what would I have put? You can only eat… so many soups (Bogotá), so much arroz con pollo, so many sancochos, so many arepas…


  2. What people would say in Bogotá and probably elsewhere is “papas, arroz y carne,” to describe what people eat over and over. It conveys the meaning of little variety, little excitement. Then, people used to say comer ACPM. You might know that A.C.P.M. is diesel fuel (aceite combustible para motor), but in this context it would mean Arroz, Carne, and the rest I never quite got a satisfactory completion. The P would be for papa but then the M is not clear. I heard Platano Maduro, but plantains, although more commonly consumed than beans, are not so common. Regardless, if you say ACPM, people will get what you mean.


    • I am always one tiny step ahead of you, hehe. I blogged about ACPM in this post. I always heard maduro for the M. And I have to disagree- I thought that plantains were very common! Especially for an American. They seemed omnipresent to me (for better or for worse- I came to like them), and in all varieties.


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