Tag Archives: spanish

Cat Power, Pizza and Faina

I’ve had a tough week. To top it off, my highlight was going to be the Cat Power concert at Teatro Gran Rex which I went to Thursday night. It may have been the highlight, but it certainly wasn’t the highlight I was expecting. For me, the fun was laughing with my friend Naty and wondering what the concert would be like if only we’d been on LSD.

My camera saw the concert as if on LSD at times.

My camera saw the concert as if on LSD at times.


At one point, Cat Power disappeared for what seemed like fifteen minutes and we listened to the band improvise the beginning of what should have been (and eventually, 15 minutes later) was the next song. Maybe she had to run to the bathroom, we thought.

Whered she go?

Where'd she go?

When she reappeared all she said was a quick, “Sorry.” But when the song got going, and the next song did, and the one after did, they all sounded exactly the same as the first five we’d heard before Cat Power disappeared leaving us with a repeating electronic opening and purple lights, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just too old to get this type of concert or if everyone else there was thinking the same thing: “WTF!”

Naty pulled her cell phone out of her bag to see if anyone had called. That can’t be a good sign for a performer. I, too, was no longer paying attention to the concert, I wondered if Cat Power is the type of singer that you can like at home because you can mix her up with other groups you like. I almost never listen to one group or album all the way through anymore. They’re grouped by genre or by my playlists which I carefully put together and have a variety of music that is similar, but by various artists. Could I ever listen to Cat Power and nothing else for over an hour?

Each time a song began I’d think, “haven’t we heard this one?” Then Cat Power’s incredibly smoky voice would remind me that I do love her music. I just don’t love it for hours on end. Finally there was a surprise, and for certain, the highlight of the evening. She sang a song in Spanish (here’s the setlist from the concert). It was the only song I felt she cared about all night. Her body language changed and she seemed to connect with the audience.

At the end, I think it was the most boring and strangest concert I’ve seen. It wasn’t just that every song sounded the same and that the songs I most wanted to hear weren’t sung. It was the fact that she made no attempt to connect with us. Besides the one “sorry,” after her disappearance, she never spoke to the audience. Was it because her Spanish is not great? Maybe, but I’d guess that the people who want to see a Cat Power concert understand some English. A simple “Hello, Buenos Aires,” and “thank you for coming,” would probably do the trick. Instead we were left thinking, “WTF?”

Back on stage.

Back on stage.

On another note. If you go to a show on Corrientes, Buenos Aires’ Broadway, the place to head to after for a quick bite is Guerrin. It’s a pizza place, but more than pizza Guerrin is sort of a right of passage for theater goers in Buenos Aires. It’s not the best pizza in town, but it’s good pizza. It’s the atmosphere that brings in the crowds.

Pizza and Faina at Guerrin

Pizza and Faina at Guerrin

There’s even a song about this right of passage by the Argentine rock band called Memphis La Blusera. The song is called Moscato, Pizza y Faina.

Here are the lyrics:

Las luces se encienden,
calle Corrientes,
se llena de gente,
que viene y que va,
salen del cine,
rien y lloran,
se aman, se pelean,
se vuelven a amar,
en la Universal,
fin de la noche,
moscato, pizza y faina,
moscato y pizza.

Translation:

The lights turn on,
Corrientes Street,
fills up with people,
that come and go,
leaving the movies,
laughing and crying,
they love, they fight,
they fall back in love,
in the universal,
to end the night out,
moscato, pizza and faina,
moscato and pizza.

Pizza y Faina

Pizza y Faina

Pizza and faina is a common combination here in Buenos Aires. Faina is made from chickpea flour and often has herbs or onions mixed in with it. It usually comes on top of the pizza slice so you can cut through both and eat them together. According to the song, and to tradition especially at Guerrin, it’s best with a glass of Moscato.

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Argentinean Asado 102: How do you like your steak?

In May, we posted on the art of the Argentinean asado. Today we’ll look at how you can get your steak cooked to your liking. One would think that here in the land of exquisite meat, a simple medium, medium rare, or well done would do the trick. If only that were the case.

I find that Argentines typically overcook meat. Most people order their steak a punto (which should mean medium), but it comes out bien cocida (medium well). 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

 

I like my steak medium rare. Argentine friends have told me to ask for it jugoso (literally meaning juicy which sounds so much better than medium rare). The problem is that there is really no consensus here in Argentina about what the terms mean. When ordering jugoso, I’ve been served anything from rare to well done. 

Image Courtesy of Asado ArgentinaImage Courtesy of Asado Argentina

A few months back, I went to a little-known restaurant I’d been to before with a group of friends. The first time I ate there (back in October when it first opened), I had an amazing risotto with rabbit and vanilla. Strange combination. That’s why I ordered it and it was delicious. Everyone else I was with also raved about what they ordered. So when I had visitors of the sort that want to experience the food and wine here more than anything else, I thought this place would impress them. Wrong.

Three of us ordered medium-rare tenderloins. The waiter and I had this discussion (below), which truthfully should have told me that we shouldn’t order steaks.

     Spanish version:

     “¿Y que coccíon querés?”
     “Jugoso, por favor.”
     “Sangrante entonces.”
     “No, jugoso. Entre sangrante y a punto.”

     English version:

     “And how would you like it cooked?”
     “Medium rare, please.”
     “Bloody.”
     “No, medium rare. Between bloody and well done.”

One steak came out medium rare. The other two were medium well to well. Imagine, one chef prepares three steaks all ordered jugoso in three different levels of doneness.

The meat here really is amazing, so if you’re like me, you will want it cooked the way you like. 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

If your Spanish is strong enough, you might want to try describing how you want it prepared instead of using the terms for doneness. Here are some suggestions.

  1. rarerojo intenso y sangrante en el centro
  2. medium rarerosado con y bien jugoso
  3. mediuma punto pero todavia jugoso
  4. well donebien cocida

We’d like to thank Asado Argentina for giving us permission to use these beautiful photos. Buen Provecho!

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Che, Ponete las Pilas!

Yes, this post is long overdue. Let’s switch things around this time and start off with some expressions for entertainment. And, since we’ve had a lot of demonstrations (peaceful pot banging mostly), strikes (the ongoing farmers strike), and disagreements (the decidedly inept government of the Kirchners), we’ll use that as the theme. 

First off, our title. The ubiquitous che! Che can come at the beginning or the end of a sentence as a simple interjection, or to avoid saying a person’s name. It’s like calling them “mate” or “dude.” But it is often used as a filler, a meaningless interjection just thrown in there.

  1. che – hey, hey you, man, dude, mate.
    “Che, que esta pasando?”
    “Looks like there’s another demonstration.”         

     “Man, Cristina has really dropped the ball.”
    “Te parece, che?”

  2. quilombo – a mess, chaos, commotion.
    “Che, que quilombo.”
    “No kidding. I’m heading out to the streets to bang pots with the protesters. Wanna come?”
    “Ni en pedo.”
     
  3. enquilombado – a complicated situation
    “Estamos enquilombados!”
    “You said it. The whole thing’s a complete mess.”
     
  4. quilombero(a) – a person who creates a mess
    “Ella es una quilombera total!”
    “Well, either she is or her husband is. Either way, it ain’t pretty.”
     
  5. piquetero(a) – protesters
    “Viste cuantos piqueteros habian?”
    “I saw them and heard them. Pots were banging all night!”
     
  6. ponerse las pilas – (literally, put in your batteries) get a move on, take charge
    “Can she solve the problem?”
    “Si, si se pone las pilas.”

There are some great sites covering Argentinean slang. Try the Argentine Spanish Slang Dictionary, El Castellano’s Dictionary, or Wally’s Dictionary. The last two also have sound files.  

Pronunciation: ll and y

The second most important aspect of Argentine Spanish to learn before you get here is the pronunciation of the ll (as in calle) and y (as in yo). Typically, they are both pronounced like a y in other Spanish dialects. 

Standard Pronunciation 

  • calle -street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)

The pronunciation of both the ll and the y change depending on which part of the country the speaker is from. We’ll look at how the porteños pronounce them, since most people will be visiting Buenos Aires and this pronunciation is the one that confuses.

ll and y are both pronounced as “sh” (for example, shop). So, the word calle becomes “cashe” and yo becomes “sho.”

Argentinean Pronunciation

  • calle – street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)

Here’s a short dialog to get you used to it. Click here to download the mp3 file of this dialog and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation of ll and y.

  • A:     Te llame ayer.
  • B:     Yo tambien te llame, pero me tuve que ir a la calle Ayacucho.
  • A:     ¿Para que?
  • B:     Un juego de llaves.

Translation:

  • A:     I called you yesterday.
  • B:     I called you too, but I had to go to Ayacucho Street.
  • A:     What for?
  • B:     A copy of my keys.

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Vos vs Tú: A Los Pedos

So you’ve been listening to your Spanish lessons as you drive to work or as you exercise at the gym. You practice rolling your r’s in the mirror every morning. You’ve stuck stick-it notes on the items in your house to help build your vocabulary.  As you open the refrigerator, you mouth out the items: leche, agua, huevos, queso, jamon, yogur, uvas, manzanas. You make it a point to say “Hola” and “gracias” to your Latino neighbors. And then you land in Buenos Aires and realize they don’t speak Spanish here. 

It’s Castellano, or Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect of Spanish spoken in the areas of the River Plate, and it can be quite different. Mostly the pronunciation is different, but there are different words too. To me, Castellano has an Italian rhythm with a Brazilian Portuguese softness. Overly romanticized? That’s very possible, after all, we are talking about language, which ranks up there in my top three favorite topics.

So how can you prepare? Maybe we can help.

Vos vs  

In most Spanish-speaking countries, the pronoun for you (informal) is . In Argentina, they use vos. Whether the vos comes from Brazil’s você or from Spain’s vosotros isn’t clear, but don’t worry if you use , Argentines will still understand you. You only need to know that when they use vos, they’re talking to you.

Conjugating with Vos

It would be much easier if all one had to do to speak Castellano were change the  to vos. But as luck would have it, the verbs are also different. For example, in most Spanish-speaking countries to ask where a person is from you would say “¿De donde eres tu?” In Castellano it’s “¿De donde sos vos?” Notice that the two verbs–eres and sos–are completely different. 

There aren’t too many verbs that change so drastically. In most cases, it’s the accent and maybe a missing vowel that accounts for the difference between verb forms and vos verb forms. Actually, the vos verb forms are easier. Drop the final -r on the verb, add an -s, and put the accent on the final syllable. Simple.

Verb                                           Vos                                           Tú

ser (to be)                                   vos sos                                     tú eres

estar (to be)                                vos estás                                  tú estás

tener (to have)                            vos tenés                                  tú tienes

querer (to want)                          vos querés                               tú quieres

venir (to come)                           vos venís                                  tú vienes

decir (to say)                              vos decís                                  tú dices

pensar (to think)                        vos pensás                               tú piensas

 

Castellano a los Pedos

In our next blog post will cover the major pronunciation differences, but to have a little fun before getting serious again, let’s talk about the colloquialisms. 

Argentines have a very particular slang and they absolutely love to use it. Slang makes for some hilarious misunderstandings and that’s half the fun of learning another language. 

For example, a friend of mine got a new job. I called her after her first day to see how it went. She said it was fine, she spent the entire day al pedo. Pedo literally means fart. I had an image of my friend sitting at her new desk with nothing to do and farting all day. People would walk in and think, “boy, the new girl really stinks” or “I wonder what she had for dinner last night.” 

She’s a close friend, so felt I could ask her if her job was so dull that she spent the day forcing farts out to make the time pass faster. She explained that al pedo means something was a waste of time or effort. I still kind of like the image of her there in her new job farting away. In the end, I wasn’t that far off.

Other Pedo Expressions

  1. ni en pedo – no way
    “Hey, want to come with me to the laundromat?”
    Ni en pedo.”
  2. de pedo – by chance
    “So how did a guy like that get a girl like her?”
    De pedo.”
  3. a los pedos – very fast (literally it means to the farts which gives a nice visual)
    “He’s a crazy driver.”
    Siempre a los pedos.”
  4. cagar a pedos – to lecture or chew out (literally it means to shit farts, another visual but not so nice)
    “Did he yell at you when he fired you for farting all day?”
    Si, me cago a pedos.”
  5. al pedo – something that is a waste of time, money or effort
    “That guy just doesn’t get that you aren’t into him. What’s up with all the gifts?”
    Si, el está al pedo.” 

    “Want to come with me to Uruguay tomorrow?”
    Si, se estoy al pedo.” 

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