Saturday, April 7, 2018

Me fui pa' Chepe

I've been traveling again, and this time I headed back to Costa Rica.  I had some unfinished tourism there.  That and my wife told me that's where we were spending our vacation.

The good news is this time around I was really able to explore a bit more of the country and picked up on quite a bit more Spanish as well.

Let's jump right into things.

I'm going to share the Costa Rican slang that I picked up, so let's start off with the word pachuco.

So what does pachuco (or pachuca) mean in Costa Rica?

Pachuco is nothing more than the name for Costa Rican slang.  Well, ok, I'm over simplifying it a bit, but for the purposes of this blog post, understanding that the word pachuco refers to the slang specifically spoken in Costa Rica is good enough.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about some actual pachuco terms.

I stayed in the city of Chepe.   What's that?  You don't see it on the map?  Well, that's because chepe  is the nickname for the capital city of Costa Rica, which happens to be San José.

Me fui pa' Chepe 
I went to San Jose

Voy en camino pa' Chepe. Vamos a ver que tanta presa habrá
I'm on my way to San Jose.  We'll see how much traffic there's going to be

By the way, that pa'  is short for para.

You can find the sign above on Avenida Central in San José,  and if you're wondering, SJO is the airport code for the Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría in Chepe.

Here's another word I found interesting.


Tucas are logs, as in trees that have been cut down.

But I'm sure that my faithful readers already know I didn't post that term because I find cut down trees interesting.  However, I will say that the word tucas may only carry that meaning in Costa Rica.

Now let's look at the definition of the word tucas that qualifies it for this blog.

In Costa Rican Spanish tucas means legs,  especially if they're a pair of good looking legs.

¡Qué tucas tiene esa mujer!
That woman's got some nice legs!

You can use the word tucas to refer to men or women, like your buddy the body builder who has legs like tree stumps.  But more than likely you'll hear this used to refer to a woman with nice legs.

¡Que tucas tienes huevon!
You got some legs on you dude

By the way, be careful with the word huevón.  I translated it as dude, but it's actually one of those bad words that you can use to refer to someone you have a really good relationship with.  So if you're not best buddies or you're not absolutely positive the person you're talking to won't take offense,  I suggest you use that one with caution.  You may also see it spelled as guevón.

Tucas is a very informal word, so keep that in mind while your chatting with your Costa Rican pals.

While I've been to Costa Rica a few times, this is the first time I've noticed the usage of the verb ocuparTicos use the verb ocupar as a synonym of the verb necesitar.   I've run into this in Mexico as well.

Let's take a closer look.

No ocupo nada
I don't need anything

¿Se ocupa algo?
Do you need anything?

Si ocupas ir al baño vas a necesitar la llave
If you need to go the bathroom you're going to need the key

¿Un cajero ocupa?
You need an ATM ?

By the way, cajero is short for cajero automatico.  Oh, I almost forgot.  I wrote about how to use an ATM in Spanish a while back.   recommend you read it, it's called Marque su pin.

Did you notice the word ticos a few sentences back?  If you don't know what a tico is, let me explain.

A tico is a person from Costa Rica.  A guy from Costa Rica to be exact.  A woman from Costa Rica would be a tica.  If you're looking for a more formal word to describe someone from Costa Rica then you want the word Costarricense which is the official term for a person from Costa Rica.

¿Eres tico?
Are you Costa Rican?

Soy más tico que el gallo pinto
I'm more Costa Rican than a spotted rooster

Well, that last one doesn't make a lot of sense does it?  What does a spotted rooster have to do with being Costa Rican? 

First things first.  When you hear someone in Costa Rica talk about gallo pinto, more then likely they aren't referring to a spotted rooster, but rather a very traditional Costa Rican dish.  In fact, it's considered the national dish.

A traditional gallo pinto might look something like this:

I love a good plate of rice and beans, so you can't keep me away from gallo pinto when I'm in Costa Rica.

Ok, let's switch gears completely.

This may come as a surprise, but Chepe has it's share of traffic as well.  Let's learn a little about how to talk about traffic in Costa Rica like a real tico.

Presa is the de facto word ticos use for traffic.   In fact, there are actually at least 7 Ways to say traffic in Spanish, but for now let's take a look at a very Costa Rican expression.  Well, two of them to be exact.

Chupar presa and comer presa.

Comer presa  literally means to eat traffic.   And chupar presa means to suck traffic.  Clearly the literal translations don't do us any good.

Let's look at some examples.

Si va por ahi se va a chupar toda la presa
If you go that way you're going hit all the traffic

Se va a comer toda la presa
You're going to run into all the traffic

You can also say something a little less slangy like:

¿Hay mucha presa?
Is there a lot of traffic?

Toss those phrases around and you're going to raise more than a few eyebrows because now you're sounding super tico.

Let's keep going.

I saw a few zaguates running around the streets of San José.  And if you have no clue what a zaguate is, don't feel bad, I didn't know either.

Zaguates are stray dogs or dogs that are not pure breed.  Apparently ticos have a love of dogs because they have a few pieces of artwork dedicated to zaguates on Avenida Central.   By the way, Avenida Central is the main street in downtown Chepe.

Here's another word I found interesting that you'll definitely need to know if you're chatting with the locals.

¿Hay campos?

A campo in Costa Rica can refer to a place to sit, like an empty seat.  I went to the cine (movies) and the person working the counter told me:

Todavía hay campos
There are still seats

Honestly, that took me by surprise.  If they hadn't showed me the seating chart, I would have been at a complete loss.  It actually wasn't until a day or two later when a friend filled me in on the use of the word campo and then I was finally able to put it all together.

Here's one last example:

No hay campos
There are no seats

You can also safely translate that as "there's no place to sit".

Another interesting phrase I picked up is a cachete.  So what does a cachete mean?  Here are some examples.

¿Cómo estás? A cachete mae
How are you?  It's all good

In this context, a cachete could also be translated as awesome or great.  But why hear it from me when you can hear it first hand from a tico?

If you can't see the video, here's the direct link:

A Cachete | Tico Slang from Brett Campbell on Vimeo.

Here are a few more examples.

¿Cómo te fue en el examen?  ¡A cachete! 
How did you do on the exam?  Great!

Este carro está a cachete mae
This car is awesome dude

The other context I heard a cachete in had to do with food.

My amiga ordered something or another, I don't recall exactly what it was, and when the waitress asked what she wanted on it, she replied:

a cachete
With everything

Con todo would be a more neutral way to respond.

Wow, we've talked about a lot of stuff.  I'm going to cover one more thing and then we'll get this wrapped up.

I did a little shopping while I was in Chepe and there were a couple of things that jumped out at me.

While I was looking at a few shirts the attendant said to me:

Puede medirselo
You can try it on

I'm accustomed to using and hearing the verb probarse to talk about trying on clothes, but apparently medirse works as well.

¿Me lo puedo probar?
Can I try it on?

¿Me lo puedo medir?
Can I try it on?

I was in search of a camisa de la sele.  The sele is the short way of referring to the national soccer team of Costa Rica,   La Selección de Fútbol de Costa Rica.   Now you know why it's simply referred to as la sele.

Camisa just means shirt.   So a camisa de la sele refers to a soccer jersey of the national soccer team.

Add a few more inches around the middle and I look just as good in my camisa de la sele as the mannequin does.

Finding my camisa de la sele was no easy task.  Well, not for someone who doesn't want to pay full retail for an official jersey.  I was looking for a quality knock off at a reasonable price.  And for that I had to find una china.

Una china is una tienda de chinos, or as we would say, a Chinese store.   They're everywhere in downtown Chepe.  It took a bit of searching but I finally got my camisa de la sele.

And with that we're finally done.  Now you're ready to impress some folks with your Costa Rican Spanish.

If you want or need to learn more Costa Rican slang, I found these lessons on Costa Rican Spanish to be of great help.  They do a great job of zeroing in on the most common terms.  You can also find several books on Costa Rican slang at Amazon.

I've got a few more things to share about my trip, so stay tuned for more!  You can also read my other posts on Costa Rican Spanish.

¡Hasta la próxima!

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