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Language / word tips & tricks in Cuba

Language / word tips & tricks in Cuba

Old Oct 18, 14, 3:19 pm
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Language / word tips & tricks in Cuba

I'll add to this from time to time, and of course you can too.

Though the language spoken in Cuba is essentially Castilian Spanish / Castellano, Cuba has been a trade entrepôt since its founding. Spanish conquerors and fleets, native peoples, African slaves and many others have contributed to the richness of the language.

As a native speaker of Castellano, or latinoparlante, (there are other languages spoken in Spain that are every bit as valid and long lived as Castellano, but it was the power of Castilla y Leon that conquered Spain and a significant part of the world as far as the Philippines and Guam, not the Gallegos, Eskarra or Catalanes), I've found some interesting word usages.

"The gringa next door" says:

I can hear some readers scoffing across the World Wide Web. But take this exchange for example:

“¿Que bolá asere? Tengo pincha y me hace falta una botella. Tírame un cabo y te doy un pescao.”

Very simply, this translates to: Hey man. I have to get to work and need a lift. Help me out and I’ll give you 10 pesos.

See what I mean? Tricky.
(el) Almendrón (all-men-drone): literally a big almond; in Cuba, an old car.

(el) chavito (chah-vee-toh) or (la) Cana Cana, fula or tabla (cah-nyah, fool-ah or tah-blah): you'll hear many use these words to mean CUC currency.

(el) Coño (coe-nyoh): Though you'll hear many Cubans (and Venezuelans) use this word to frequently punctuate their conversation, it's an offensive word for a woman's vagina and instead of showing how a foreigner fits in, it will most likely embarrass.

(la) guagua (gwah-gwah): The bus. (OTOH in Andean countries, a baby!)

Jinetera / o )heen-ay-tear -oh or uh, m. or f.): -0 a freelancer, often of a dodgy sort; -a, a woman independent contractor, usually a sex worker.

La ñapa (esp. southern Cuba) (lah-nyop-ah): something extra, like the "baker's dozen" meaning 13 in some Anglophone countries. "Lagniappe" as used in Louisiana (pronounced there as "lan-yap") is the same thing. Amazingly, brought by the Spanish from Peru - the term is from the Andean Kechwa / Quechua / Runasimi language.

Nescafé: no way, never happen.

(el) Paladar (pall-ah-darr): literally, palate; in Cuba, a privately operated restaurant, licensed by the Cuban government.

(la) Papaya: Never, but never, ask for "papaya", which in Cuba is a very rude word for a woman's vagina. Please ask for "fruta bomba" (bomb fruit, as a hanging papaya does somewhat resemble a bomb about to drop. You'll at least get some snickers asking for papaya in a restaurant or market.

(la) pincha (peen-cha): work.

Last edited by JDiver; Oct 18, 14 at 9:40 pm
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Old Oct 24, 14, 2:31 am
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Thanks for the informative tips, keep it up!
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Old Nov 24, 14, 6:36 pm
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My high school Spanish teacher was Mexican-American, and of course, most of the Latinos in the Midwest are Mexican or Central American, so that's the accent I was accustomed to.

I definitely noticed a different accent in Cuba. It seemed kind of nasal or at least spoken way back in the mouth.
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Old Nov 25, 14, 11:31 am
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I speak Mexican Spanish and find it challenging to understand certain accents particularly from El Salvador and Argentina. And I never bothered to learn the 2nd person plural form of verbs and pronouns (i.e. "vosotros") because it is rarely heard in Mexico. But it is used extensively in other countries; I heard it used quite a bit in Chile and Argentina.

Spanish slang is fascinating and rich, especially when you get into the creative use of curse words and vulgar slang which often varies regionally. For example I had no idea that I'd get laughed at if I said to a waiter or shopkeeper, "Quisiera una papaya bien rica" in Cuba which, of course, is simply "I would like a nice tasting papaya (fruit)" in Mexico. And in Mexico the various grammatical forms of "pinche" (literally "kitchen boy" or "kitchen assistant" but in Mexico is the equivalent of the English "f-word") are legendary.
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Old Nov 28, 14, 7:49 am
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Jama - food

casa particular - private guesthouse

el gao - my house

pastilla - my lover, anyone you are dating

jeva - my girlfriend

papi - my lover

el baro - money
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