to South America and beyond



They do not speak Spanish in Chile. Oh, they think they do, but it´s not true.

I was getting a little confident, perhaps even cocky with my Spanish skills in Peru, but when I landed in Santiago, my confidence was shot to hell.

The Chilean accent is ridiculously fast, has a strange (but I must admit, beautiful) intonation, and they clip off the ends of every other word. Everywhere I go, "gracias" is "gracia," "no mas" is "no ma," and "por favor" is "por fa" (or "por fis," but I´ll get into idiosyncrasies in a minute). These I can handle, yet there are thousands of others that I can´t even hear because I can´t follow a conversation to save my life.

One of the hardest things about Chilean Spanish is their phrases. I met a cool New Yorker who had learned his Spanish in Chile (poor guy) and he put it best: "You can understand the words and still have no idea what the hell they´re talking about."

Some examples:

"andar el gringo" - literally means "walk the gringo," but in Chile it means to go without underwear

"andar el pato" - "walk the duck", and in Chile it means to have no money

and my personal favorite . . .

"me de paja" - means "it gives me straw", but you should be careful who you say this to in Chile because it means "I´d rather by masturbating."


Blogger KIM said...

Hi Shell,
Oh my gosh you better be careful what you say in Chili. So hopefully your getting some kind of help from somewhere on the language. Have a blast! Be careful.
Love, Mom

9:11 PM

Blogger JMC said...

and I bet some unfortunate chilean speech pathologist is busy teaching these idioms to kids who have trouble with non-literal langauge

7:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose our "going commando" really makes no more sense than "walking the gringo". :) Thanks for these... I think "me de paja" might just become my new motto. Ha. Hope you are enjoying the last days of your adventure. Looking forward to having you back in the rainy pacific northwest.


1:03 PM


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