- Learning Spanish & Portuguese>
- The Oddity of a Latin American Man Calling Another Latin American Man “Papi”
Not too long ago, I walked into a 7-11 that is located across the street from Metro Copilco.
Walking in, I grab a small bag of chips and stand in line.
The store was pretty busy that day and you had some workers doing other things like handling packaging and such.
And what I heard was a tiny bit weird but something I have heard at this specific 7-11 before.
Where one of the workers -- a young male -- is opening a box full of chips while kneeling down.
He then looks up and cries out for another employee to hand him some scanning tool.
The employee grabs it and hands it to him.
But the odd thing in question was how, when he asked for him to hand him whatever it was, the dude handling the box of chips called him "papi!!!"
Now, to be fair, the dude didn't come across as overly gay.
Well, he could've been. Who knows?
But, even if he was, it still seems weird to flirt with another employee by calling them "papi" during work.
Though that is a question too: was he flirting with the other dude?
Or was he using the word "papi" in a non-sexualized and non-flirtatious way?
Despite over a decade of learning Spanish, there are still things that confuse me.
Obviously, I'm not aware of all of the slang younger people use these days.
I'm not even familiar with slang that zoomers in the US use within the English language.
Though I know what papi means, I never understood it to be a word to call another man.
It sounds gay as fuck.
But, like I said, it did strike me as weird for it to be gay and for an employee to be flirting with another one while on the job.
Which made me wonder "is there another way some Latin Americans use this word that isn't flirtatious?"
So I looked it up to see what other folks are saying.
Papi as Bro?
Right away, I found this thread here that has some responses from folks on the matter from various Latin American countries.
Here are some key responses:
"Yes it's like "bro" or if they're older it's like "young man".
"¿Que lo que papi?
Whats up bro?
De lo que conozco yo, se encuentra mucho en español caribeño."
"Yeah man it's all good it's just a sweet or friendly way to say bro/man/buddy/little man/boy etc and the same for Mami for girls and yes it could be sexual it just all depends on the context you use it"
"I was extremely put off when I traveled to the Caribbean part of my country and was called that. It's a Caribbean thing I suppose"
Now, to be fair, Mexico City isn't within the Caribbean obviously but I have heard a few people once in a blue moon use the term "papi" in a context that didn't seem like the one dude was flirting with the other.
Like in the case with the dude at the 7-11, the dude didn't come across like he was flirting.
And, when you speak Spanish well enough, you can more easily understand context in how things are said.
Which is why it confused me when I heard him say "papi" because it didn't sound like he was trying to be gay or flirtatious but he used a word I mostly only associate with being more sexual.
At any rate, what else does the internet say on this?
Well, according to this article here, "papi" can be used like "buddy" or bro.
"Borrowed by English, papi is a Spanish colloquialism for “daddy,” extended as a general term of endearment like “buddy” for a friend or “my man” for a romantic partner."
Then we have what I found here with some quotes:
"A cuban coworker calls me 'papi' when we speak Spanish together. It threw me off at first, especially since he's like 20 years older than me!"
"You just reminded me that when I'm at gatherings with my Hispanic friends many of them will refer to me as Papi in a friendly way, and we are also in the same age group. 30's."
Anything to Add?
Personally, I find it very weird for any dude to be calling another dude "papi."
I could never call another dude "papi" and it doesn't sound to me like "bro."
At any rate, I don't actually hear too many dudes calling each other "papi" as a way to say "bro" here in Mexico City but I have heard it once in a blue moon.
But now I've learned something -- I guess some Latin Americans use it as a way to say "bro" supposedly.
Probably good to finally learn that now.
Though I'm sure the degree to which people use the word "papi" to mean bro probably varies by what part of Latin America you are in and the generation they come from if I had to guess.
Anyway, that's all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.