Last words

A relationship that meant a lot to me ceased to be yesterday morning, so I’m sad, reflective, and hoping with all of my being that there’s a minimum of pain on the other side. So, how to close the cycle before I let a new, beautiful one begin? Just like I did three years ago, I thought I’d write one last blog post, this time with words I took from that last night of conversation at this person’s house. I didn’t write any of them down, but I made mental notes and was able to recall most of them later on. Words have always been my most cherished gift anyway, so in lieu of any received letter or note I’ll see myself out with these phrases and hereby close this sweet chapter.

1. Se engrampaEngrampar apparently means to staple in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and a few other regions (with grampa instead of grapa for staple), but the word has a different meaning in Colombia. The best I can make out is something like to find yourself burdened with some undesirable object, location, or company. In a word, stuck. Or stuck in traffic. Ha, stapled in traffic. Readers?

2. En la quinta porra – This means in the middle of nowhere, in the boondocks/boonies, out in the sticks, in bum****. (Sorry, I self-censor for all moms and grandmothers out there.) A place that’s perceived as far away from the speaker and inconvenient to reach. Porra loosely translates as hell (mandar a alguien a la [quinta] porra is to tell them to go to hell), but this particular phrase isn’t offensive. This is the local variation of the traditional Spanish phrase en el quinto pino, and endless variations exist all over the Spanish-speaking world: en el quinto infierno, en los quintos infiernos, en el quinto carajo, en el quinto coño, en la quinta puñeta, en la quinta chingadaen la quinta hostia. Some of which are definitely not for polite company. Nobody really seems to know why quinto (fifth) is used this way, but it’s emphatic.

3. Ni por el chiras – no way, not a chance. El chiras is probably a name for the devil in Colombia–I actually learned this from a blog reader, edf, a while back. Other Colombian forms (of varying vulgarness) include ni por el berraconi por el forro, ni de fundasni de vainas, and ni por el putas (ni puel putas). It’s not gonna happen.

4. Cerciorarse de algo – to make sure of something, to assure yourself of something, to ensure, to check. It’s a fancier way of saying asegurarse de algo, but it’s a good word to know and definitely pops up in conversations. Universal.

5. ¡Rebulla, rebulla! – from rebullir, which means to stir a drink (to dissolve the sugar or mix in the milk) in Colombia.

6. Jincho/a – drunk, plastered, wasted in Colombia.

7. Bonachón, bonachona – good-natured, jolly. I always remember that the book The BFG by Roald Dahl (The Big Friendly Giant) was translated as El gran gigante bonachón in Spanish. Sometimes it can also have the negative connotation of someone who’s goofy or dopey. Like someone who always has a big dopey grin on their face and never has a clue. Or, they’re naïve and easily get taken in because they just can’t imagine the possibility of malice in others. The word is an augmentative of bueno, and it’s universal.

El gran gigante bonachón The BFG Roald Dahl

8. Se erizó – from erizarse, which is when you bristle and all your hairs stand on end, or, if you’re a dog, your ears prick up and you sit at attention, right before launching into a tireless tirade of barks. The dog in question is named Luna, and, oh! How I’m going to miss her. A hedgehog is called an erizo, and this must be because their quills are always standing on end. Similar to this word from a blog post of yore, both being used everywhere.

9. Un no tajante – an emphatic “no,” rejecting something out of hand, a categorical “no.” Tajar means to cut, slice, or chop. You give your “read my lips, I said N-O” and make a clean slice, a clean break.

10. Con eso me limpio el . . . – this is an example of ellipsis, when a word isn’t provided but the listener is assumed to be able to fill in the blank. That blank would be “culo.” So, the complete phrase is con eso me limpio el culo. I wipe my ass with that, literally, or this is as worthless as toilet paper for me, but probably best translated as something like, um . . . I can’t think of a good equivalent phrase. Maybe you couldn’t tell from this blog, but I rarely use profanity. Basically, you’re expressing your disdain and disgust for something. I don’t know, maybe, what a worthless bunch of crap, or, what a load of bull. We might even have a phrase just like this in English, but I wouldn’t know. The person who used this phrase was just quoting someone else, a mom who was jokingly expressing her contempt for her kids’ reports cards that showed various failed subjects.

11. Plátano hartón – a kind of plantain. A titillating discussion began on the names of the different kinds of bananas and plantains after a bowl of dreary, gray, sludge-like plantain soup that I foisted on my partner at the time. I tuned out because I don’t currently care about adding more nuances to my banana/plantain repertoire, but somehow this one reached me in my indifference. You can also just say hartón.

12. Croquis – a police sketch. I’d read the word in newspapers, but this was the first time I’d heard it in real life. The person was saying that after being hit by a hit-and-run driver, he was unable to give the license plate number or a facial composite of the driver to police because it all happened so fast. Isn’t this word cool? It makes me think of croquet and Iroquois. It’s also used for a general diagram, outline, or sketch. In some places, it’s used for an informal, imprecise map that you might draw on the back of an envelope for a friend. Apparently, the word also exists in English (coming from French): a quick and sketch-like drawing of a live model, or a quick figure sketch in fashion design.

Croquis police sketch

13. De sopetón – all at once, suddenly, unexpectedly, just like that. A sopetón can also be a punch. So, the adverbial phrase conveys the shock and suddenness of a sucker punch.

Not to worry; I won’t be breaking up with Colombian Spanish this time or any such nonsense. Nor are a bunch of despecho posts in the works. Life goes on, Vocabat, of course, will go on, and I’ll keep speaking better and living better, one word and relationship at a time. How grateful I am for this and every other person who passes through my life, even when briefly. Here’s to the very, very best for both of us.

4 responses to “Last words

  1. Sorry to hear about your ended relationship. I hope that someone knows what he will be missing. I love your positive outlook on moving forward. I believe every encounter and relationship with a person throughout our lives helps us to evolve in some way or another. I hope this new chapter in your life will spark a spiritual evolution. El tiempo cura todas las heridas. :)

    -Peace, Love, and Happiness-


    • Thanks, Floyd. It’s OK; I’ll be fine, though I’m very sad right now. Una persona linda, linda, linda. The missing part goes both ways… he’s a great guy, and I only feel respect, affection, and gratitude toward him. Some things were just off, though. My positive outlook comes after many years of a really crummy one that just caused so much needless suffering… I wasted (lost) years of my life being sad. It got old… being happy, positive, and proactive has served me much better.

      Yes, everyone teaches us, everyone holds up a mirror and helps us along. Even my blog readers, believe it or not :)



  2. Regarding erizarse, there is a direct latin root to this word. You can find back the same word in Italian (rizzare) and in French (hérisser).
    It is coming from the latin word ericius, a hedgehog. You get the picture? :-)

    As for croquis, it is a French word, that is coming from the verb “croquer”. Croquer means to munch, to crunch, but also means to sketch, drawing an unfinished portrait. An unfinished job like an apple in which you just gave a few bites.


    • A half-munched apple! I love that! So, a croque monsieur is Mr. Crunch? Hm, it would be interesting if some artist out there did a project where he finished the “unfinished” police sketches to make true art out of them. Also, so often those sketches are so horribly unflattering that I wonder if that enough might make some would-be criminals think twice before committing a crime.

      I read the French book The Elegance of the Hedgehog a few years ago- hérisson. Rizzare looks like the Spanish rizar, which I only knew as to curl. But now that I look it up, I see that it’s also to ridge and to ripple/ruffle the ocean.

      Cool beans- love it when readers add more to the conversation, pull in other languages, and teach all of us something :)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s