Colombian Spanish in the time of love (The Bogotá Post)

My latest for The Bogotá Post centers on all things love. Because I am clearly such an expert on the topic . . . cough cough. I have been around the block a time or two, though, and I think I can definitely hold my own in falling in love in Colombian Spanish. When you’re in love in a different language, on the one hand you tend to stop caring about saying things perfectly because all that really matters is what you feel and just being with your sweetheart. At the same time, though, I feel that more than ever you want to know all the words out there so you can express yourself with absolute precision, not just approximations. So, single or already partnered, it’s a great time to learn some key vocab if there’s even the remote chance that you might ever find yourself in love with a Colombian. Highly recommended, by the way.

All you need is love for your newfound relationship with a Colombian, at least at the beginning. Even if you don’t know a lick of Spanish, if there’s attraction, understanding, and un buen feeling between you and your Colombian honey, you should be able to get by on just sparks and body language at first. But eventually by, oh, I don’t know, the second or third day or so, you’re going to want to know a few words and phrases to express all these new marvelous sensations you’re experiencing. Here is some local vocabulary, phrases, and idioms for relationships, many of which don’t translate literally.

It all starts with a crush. And in local Spanish, it starts with a traga. Tragar literally means to swallow, and tragarse de alguien could range from being really into someone who doesn’t even know you exist to being crazy about your long-term partner. Note that una traga can refer to a man or woman. Un trago is something totally different: a drink.

¿Quién es tu traga? Who do you have a crush on?

Estoy muy tragado de Natalia. I’m really into Natalia.

La nueva secretaria tiene tragado a Mauricio. Mauricio’s crazy about the new secretary.

If your crush is unrequited and it ends up just causing pain for you, it’s una traga maluca.

crush avestruz traga

So, you have a crush. Now what? How are you going to get that person’s attention? You flirt. The standard way of saying this is coquetear, and someone’s who’s very flirtatious is coqueto or coqueta. A more colloquial way of saying to hit on someone is echarle los perros a alguien. Literally, to throw the dogs at someone or set the hounds on them.

Te estuvo echando los perros toda la noche, obvio que le gustas. He was flirting with you all night–he obviously likes you.

To pick someone up is levantarse a alguien.

Hey, your flirt game isn’t so bad! You’ve gone out, you really like each other, and you decide to make it official and start going steady. Here in Colombia, they call this step cuadrarse con alguien.

Juan y yo nos cuadramos el sábado. Juan and I decided to be a couple on Saturday.

Se conocieron apenas la semana pasada y ya están cuadrados. They just met last week and they’re already boyfriend and girlfriend.

a room with a view una habitación con vistas beso kiss window ventana

Maybe friends with benefits is more your style. In that case, you’ll be amigovios (from amigos + novios) or amigos con derechos. Machuque is another very colloquial word you might pick up somewhere.

Maybe friends with benefits is more your style . . . while you’re with someone else. An affair is un affaire or un romance, and cheating on your partner is ponerle los cachos a alguien. Literally, to put the horns on someone. It’s very similar to the old-fashioned idea of cuckolding someone. If your secret lover is a man, he’s el tinieblo (the shadow) or el mozo; if a woman, she’s la moza. Or they can be el otro or la otra. If you have someone interested in you that you don’t encourage but you don’t exactly discourage either, just kind of keeping them on the side in case you ever need a plan B, you have an arroz en bajo. To have a pot of rice just simmering there in the background.

Supe que mi novia me estaba poniendo los cachos y la eché. I found out that my girlfriend was cheating on me, and I dumped her.

love falling amor cayendo

Sadly, things don’t always work out, maybe for the reason listed above. To break up is terminar, and after the breakup comes a long painful period of wallowing in your sorrows, listening to vallenato, and trying to drown your grief in alcohol. This period is called la tusa or el despecho in Colombia. Someone going through this stage is, then, entusado or despechado. But cheer up! Un clavo saca otro clavo–the best way to get out a nail that’s stuck in something is by using another nail, and the best way to get over an old flame is by meeting someone new. Now you’re all set with all the vocabulary and phrases you need to do so!

5 responses to “Colombian Spanish in the time of love (The Bogotá Post)

  1. You must be reading my mind. I’m in the middle of writing a post on this very topic! Anyway….

    ponerle los cachos a alguien – I know this one as poner los cuernos.

    And el tinieblo in Mexican Spanish is el sancho.


    • Ha! Then I guess love is in the air! They’ll be great complements to each other, especially if yours has some excellent Mexican slang like I’m sure it will. I’ll make sure to link to it.

      Oh, yeahhhh, el sancho! I had heard that somewhere. Yes, cachos = cuernos = horns. Cuernos would definitely be understood here. Now, how about the woman?


  2. To have an affair is “una aventura” or if you are (a man) who does this often, you are an “aventurero”… ahhh the latin colloquialism


  3. No estoy seguro si es valido.. pero tuvieron un estudio ;)


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