Monday, November 14, 2011

¿Has visto mi chamarra?

It's that time again, where I share a bit of Spanish with you that I hope you find entertaining and maybe even useful.

I could explain what a chamarra is, but I'm lazy, so I'll show you a picture instead.

¿Has visto mi chamarra?
Have you seen my jacket?

Yes, a chamarra is what your Spanish book calls a chaqueta.  If you haven't heard this word already, tarde o temprano (sooner or later), you will, especially when you start delving into the world of Mexican Spanish.

So what's so special about the word chamarra in Mexican Spanish you ask?  Other than it's the preferred word for jacket in much of Mexico, nothing.  It just means jacket.  In fact, it means jacket no matter where in the Spanish speaking world you go.  Not everyone uses the word chamarra, but you should be understood.  

This may come as a surprise, but the word that might give you problems in Mexico is the one your Spanish book taught you....chaqueta.

Yes, I'm quite sure you're intrigued about how the word for jacket, chaqueta, could be troublesome, so let me get on with it.

At some point in your learning Spanish career someone is going to tell you"don't use the word chaqueta in Mexico", and they're going to be very emphatic about it, almost to the point where you think you'll be deported from the country if you do use it.  Why you ask?  Because the word chaqueta means  something else in Mexico.  That something else would be "hand job".    Unfortunately, no one ever told me that.  I did know that Mexicans in general preferred the word chamarra, but I had no idea why.  Let me tell you what happened to me when I couldn't remember the word chamarra and went with chaqueta.

I was in Mexico in the month of January, and it was pretty chilly.  I was talking with someone about how cold it was and I said...

Hace frio, per no tengo chaqueta
It's cold, but I don't have a jacket

You won't believe what happened next....


Yep, absolutely nothing.  Our conversation just went on normally, he didn't bat an eye.  And this is what brings me to a huge pet peeve of mine.  There are people who go around putting fear in gringos about using the word chaqueta in Mexico when it just isn't necessary, so now I'm going to set the record straight.

Chaqueta, in Mexico and any other Spanish speaking country, means jacket.  Feel free to run through the streets of Mexico shouting chaqueta to your hearts content.  People will think you're crazy, but they aren't going to cruxify you.  It just so happens that for whatever reason, chaqueta is used colloquially to refer to the act of self-gratification.   Well, in reality it would be a noun, and the phrase to refer to the act itself is hacerse una chaqueta, for those of you who need to know.   And it applies to both men and women.  

Now, if you're in the company of friends, 13 years olds or construction workers and you say..."Necesito una chaqueta", yes, you're probably going to hear a few chuckles, if not flat out laughter.  I mean, come on, it is kinda funny.  There's nothing wrong with a little toilet/juvenile humor every now and then.   And even better, with this new found knowledge maybe you can make one of your friends the butt of the joke instead of the other way around.

So there you have it.  Yes, chaqueta might have you blushing from embarrassment in the right (wrong?) context, but the truth its totally safe to use chaqueta to refer to a jacket in Mexico.   In fact, in some parts of Mexico it's actually quite common to hear it. 

That's it for today. ¡Hasta la próxima!


  1. I share that pet peeve, something that someone did in my last post, warning me about words that had nothing to do with what I'd written (and, yes, I was already well aware of their potential double meaning, and, no, they're not ubiquitous landmines like some would make them out to be). In the case of slang like this or word plays, most mature people are not out to get you, trying to twist everything you say to find a vulgar interpretation in it and then laugh at you or be offended. It would be like me telling someone learning English to NEVER, EVER say jack, jerk, blow, screw, bang, etc. or they'll look like a total idiot! :/

  2. Gracias Rodney! This finally clears up my doubts! Vocabat has summed it up beautifully, so that I don't have to feel like a "total idiot" when I remember the times I said (innocently) "chaqueta"!

  3. Haha, I know those people. I once corrected myself to say "chamarra" and my friend was like, "um, you can say chaqueta." I said, yah, but I want to say chamarra because...

    He answered, you can say chaqueta too... WE KNOW WHAT THAT IS.

  4. Perhaps you can help me. I'm transcribing the capsule 006 Presión Atmosférica on I can't clarify the word "pet" which seems to be something like pop or soda cans, but I can't find any solid documentation. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Este impide que nos arruguemos cuando los embases de pet o las latas de refrescos a las que se les extraído todo el aire, a los que se les hubiera creado un vacío.

  5. very nice jacket :) its be good for me!