A few days ago, I was reminded of a particular oddity to the Argentine way of speaking.
Well, to be fair, it might not be odd in a Latin American context as every country in the world has their own slang that seems weird to outsiders.
Still, to me as a non-Argentine, the expressions I've heard from some of these folks has always seemed a tiny bit weirder to me (but more appealing in a certain sense) than the expressions used in other Latin American countries.
....But why appealing?
Because they make me hungry!
And, in a way, they're also funny because sometimes the way a group of people speak is perhaps revealing also of their culture.
We all know for example that Argentine folks (and Uruguayans) quite like their meat in their cuisine.
In fact, it's one reason why I rank Argentine cuisine higher than most countries in Latin America because I can't even imagine a meal without it having steak, beef, bacon, chicken or whatever really.
NOT A MEAL.
So, perhaps for obvious reasons, you can see where this is going and why I find Argentine slang (or what I have been exposed to anyway) to be quite appealing.
....But what am I referring to specifically?
Well, there's an Argentine guy I'm friends with that I met years ago at a house party in Buenos Aires.
His name is Juan and he ended up posting some meme on Facebook about the Argentine President Fernandez.
If you befriend lots of Latin Americans, you oddly end up with lots of political memes shitting on the current President of the Day in their respective countries.
Anyway, out of curiosity, I followed the conversation to see what people were saying and someone said to Juan "sos un salame!"
Which, even for non Spanish speakers, you all should be able to understand AT LEAST one of those words.
Especially if you enjoy a good meat based diet.
That word being anyway "salame."
Which, if you haven't guessed by now, means "salami" in English.
In other words, Juan got called "a salami."
You know, now that I think about it, I wonder how much the Italian heritage in Argentine demographics influenced that expression to come about among their people.
Someone else gets called a pizza?
Do we have any lasagna too?
Almost tempted now to get into a conversation with a family member back home, invent an argument with them and cry out "OH YOU'RE JUST A LASAGNA, AREN'T YOU??!"
Maybe then insist afterwards "STOP STEALING MY PARMESAN CHEESE!!"
But, if I was Argentine, maybe these food insults wouldn't be so offensive or weird?
They'd be normal, wouldn't they?
Well, I don't know about "lasagna" and "Parmesan cheese" but, from what I have noticed from Argentine folks over the years, they DO quite often come up with other food items to make statements.
Let's get into an example before describing what various food items could mean otherwise to Argentine folks.
Parsley in the Argentine Streets
For those curious, we have this interesting story here that you can read in Spanish.
To give you a rough idea of what it says from my understanding, you basically had a bunch of people protest what they perceived to be a wrong murder conviction of an artist known as Gastón Zárate in the Argentine city of Rio Cuarto.
This protest in 2007 ultimately became known as "El Perejilazo."
For those who don't know, that's a play on words where perejil is the Spanish word for parsley (a type of herb).
Why was it called then "El Perejilazo?"
Well, because so many people believed the guy didn't kill anyone, a lot of folks marched in the streets with bouquets of parsley (which were meant to be a symbol of his innocence).
In short, it seemed like the police were just looking for a scapegoat and picked some random dude from a poorer neighborhood to accuse of the crime and people got pissed off.
From what I can understand here, it seems like the dude is out of jail anyhow.
For those curious, here's a video on the subject also.
But, because of this incident, I've heard that the term "perejil" or parsley is now used sometimes as a reference to someone who is wrongly accused by the police in order to close a case faster.
So, with that interesting lesson, we can at least understand how Argentines decided to use a particular food item to describe something in society.
....But what about other food items?
What a Pancake!
Back when I lived in Argentina, I remember hanging out with this chick named Tami who was Argentine.
At some point, I had to go to another part of Argentina known as Misiones to do some interviews with folks at a Yerba Mate cooperative that you can see here.
When I got back, I asked Tami if she could help me translate a specific part of the interview where, even in the moment, I was slightly confused as to what they were saying.
My Spanish was decent by this point (it would've been around November or December of 2015) but it wasn't perfect either and I wasn't as familiar with local Argentine slang outside of some words.
So she helped me!
In doing so, she was listening to the audio and said something along the lines about how the guy I am interviewing is a "panqueque" or a "pancake."
In the moment, I didn't know what she meant by "panqueque" as I never heard the term before.
She explained how it means pancake but technically it is a slang word supposedly for someone who changes their opinion during an argument.
Now, to be fair, I wasn't arguing with the guy at all.
But I do remember, at least during some point during the middle of the interview, how things got more political unexpectedly.
I was just curious about his cooperative, the yerba mate they produce and so forth.
But, keep in mind, this was also during an election year for Argentina and so politics were tense.
Personally, I had no opinion on Argentine politics but I had some things I considered to be true.
For example, inflation in Argentina was obviously an issue and the dude did ask me something about which my thoughts on the election and all.
Quite honestly, I don't even remember well that part of the conversation. I do remember the dude then making quick small talk with another man at the table and they seemed to disagree on something.
In short, I did ask why the dude was a "pancake" and Tami answered but I didn't really give a shit because it had no relevance to the research I was doing.
There were some other things that Tami didn't like about the dude I was interviewing whenever he casually leaned into talking about politics again but my memory is fuzzy and it's not important to the topic at hand.
So we carried on!
Outside of that, what other examples of odd Argentine slang can be found?
Argentine Food Slang
Over the years, I have heard some other "food slang" that Argentines have said and, for the purposes of this article, I looked up some other slang to see what I can find.
Keep in mind that I'm not Argentine and so obviously I'm not 100% positive if the translations of this slang is completely accurate.
Even with "panqueque," I could be slightly off but that is how Tami described it to me.
So what other examples do we have?
For one, we have lenteja. This means "lentil" technically but can be used to mean something slow as "lenteja" sounds close to "lenta."
Second, we have abatatado. This means sweet potato and can supposedly mean someone slow and dumb.
To be fair, I was a little confused how this word means "sweet potato" but, from what I can see here, the actual word for sweet potato is batata.
So perhaps "abatatado" stems from batata? I could see it but I'll leave it at that as a possibility.
Third, we have Ñoqui. This one I had to look up. It supposedly means "gnocchi" but I never even heard of this food item.
According to Wikipedia here, this food item is "varied family of dumpling in Italian cuisine. They are made of small lumps of dough composed of semolina, ordinary wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, cornmeal or similar ingredients, and possibly including herbs, vegetables, and other ingredients."
.....Of course it's Italian.
Anyway, it's supposed to mean someone who has a job but doesn't do shit at their job.
Like a corrupt politician.
Fourth, we have banana. Which means banana obviously.
For slang purposes, it can mean someone who thinks he is cool but is not actually cool.
Fifth, we have terms that I think means someone dumb, stupid or foolish. I could be wrong but, from what I can tell online, these terms can supposedly mean that: papa frita, zapallo, etc.
Sixth, we have the term "piña" or pineapple. Supposedly there's a way of saying that you hit someone known as "Le pegué una piña/trompada."
Seventh, you have the word "chorizo." This could have many meanings and, like in other Latin American countries, could technically be used as slang for dick.
Finally, what does "sos un salame" mean?
Well, to be honest, I wasn't so sure when I first saw the phrase used on Facebook so I looked it up out of curiosity when I saw it.
According to this source here, we have some ways of understanding how "sos un salame" could be used.
"A lot of that is regional or even just personal. Some people would take offense if they don't understand that you're kidding. I like to say that I am a "policy geek" but other people would not find that endearing. Maybe...you're a goofball...?"
"Salame = silly."
"you're a stupid/ silly"
Anyway, like I said, I'm not Argentine and, even though I have spoken Spanish for over a decade now, it's not perfect or native obviously.
So just keep that in mind before using any of the slang you see above in Argentina.
In fact, as I wrote here, sometimes using slang even if your Spanish is quite good can backfire in certain ways (as obviously we all don't know every slang word despite how good our Spanish gets but also because it might not come across as well if you as a foreigner use it).
Just keep that in mind.
At any rate, it's just an interesting detail about slang in Argentina.
That detail being how "food focused" it can seem at times.
And, on top of that, I would argue that the slang of any country can reveal something deeper about its people.
Like what we saw with the context behind the use of the word perejil and how that shows how certain words can change and develop new meaning.
Or how, perhaps in the case of Ñoqui, we have a population of heavy Italian demographics using a word that is supposedly associated with Italian cuisine.
At any rate, I'll leave it at that.
If you got anything to add or any corrections to make on the interpretations made of certain slang, let me know in the comment section below.
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Thanks for reading.