A matter of words!

It is that time of the week again! After a few weeks off, I’m back to give some insight of how Puerto Rico works and Puerto Ricans act. As I have said many times before, Boricuas are special (I should say amazing, but that would be over the top). And there are things done in Borinquen that are not done anywhere else, unless a Boricua is involved.

In my first blog I gave you information for you to be prepared when traveling to Puerto Rico or maybe traveling with a Puerto Rican (valuable information). Our driving, how to get to places, flying with a Boricua and even names of food, were some of the topics I discussed. But what about words? Remember that one thing is Spanish, and another one is Boricua Spanish (why share a language when we can have our own?). I will give you a list of words with their meaning; some of those words are in the dictionary, but mean something else in a different part of the world. Once again, this is Boricua Spanish in case you need to use it when you travel. Lest start with some words that we use in English and there is no need to use them in Spanish.

  • Hamburger and hot dog. I explained this in my third blog (go read if you have not). In Puerto Rico, if someone uses the dictionary version of these words, hamburguesa and perro caliente, the person taking the order will know you are not from here. She will look to her coworkers in the kitchen and go in a mocking manner and tone: Mira este! Quiere una hamburguesa/perro caliente (Check it out, he want a hamburguesa/perro caliente)! And everybody in the kitchen will laugh and say we don’t have those. You think I’m exaggerating? Give it a shot!
  • All wear pampers!
    All wear pampers!

    Chubs and pampers. Chubs and Pampers are brands. The first are moist tissues generally used to clean babies, and pampers are diapers. The correct word in Spanish is toallita húmeda and pañales. In Puerto Rico, no matter the brand we buy Pampers and we clean a baby’s dirty butt with Chubs; that’s just the way it is. So, don’t buy toallitas húmedas, buy chubs.

  • Kotex. Same thing happens here. A lady can be going through those bad days and pain and she will need some kotex. Sometimes you ladies out there will hear “I need to buy kotex”. If the lady is Boricua, that is just the name for the feminine pads. No matter what brand, all of them are kotex. (I can imagine my mother when she reads this: Nene, no escribas de eso. Eso de higiene femenina que no se discute en tu blog.)
  • Mall. Boricuas don’t go to centros comerciales; that is way too long when you say it. We go pal mol (to the mall). No matter if the mall is big or small, if the stores are inside or bajo el sol, we all go pal mol (I’m also a poet, did you see that!!??!)
  • Bill. I am not talking about William here. I refer to the bill we pay every month. Cell phone bill, utilities bill, credit card bill. We don’t have facturas, we have bills. When people say factura, they are “uppity”!
  • Clorox. No matter what bleach or whitening detergent we need, we all use cloroj. “¿Mami, que detergente le echo?” “Cloroj nene, cloroj.” Pero este detergente tiene blanqueador.” “Eso no sirve, echale cloroj.”(“Mom, what detergent should I use?” “Bleach.” “But this detergent already has bleach.” “That does not work, use cloroj”
  • Isopo

    Q-Tips. Isopo de algodón. Iso WHAT?? That’s the Spanish translation for those cotton tips we use deep in our ears when clearly in the box say we shouldn’t. For dirty mouth there is Orbit, for dirty ears we Boricuas use Q-Tips. If we need to paint something small or pour some glue somewhere, we don’t use those cotton tips for that because that is for the ears. Live with it!!

Now, other than using words in English because they sound better, we have words in Spanish that have a different meaning in the encyclopedia or they have a special definition for Puerto Rico. And you will see in the encyclopedia the words Puerto Rico, and then our definition. Here are some examples:

  • China. That is not just the name of a country. Is a fruit, orange. If you go to dictionary from the Real Academia Española de la Lengua, the word has many definitions. And there is one that reads “Puerto Rico:  Naranja dulce”. That is not totally accurate; no matter if the china is sour or sweet, big or small, it is still a china.
  • Chinchorro

    Chinchorro. This is basically a new word for us. It does not have more than 15 years. When you type that word in the dictionary, it will tell you either a small boat or a type of net. Definitely that is somewhere else in the world, because we have another definition for it. We use chinchorro or chinchorreo (the first one is the place and the second is when you go looking for any place like that) when we refer to a place like a bar or restaurant that is cheap, but good enough to visit. It can sometimes be a place right next to the road that sells bacalaitos o empanadillas, and we call that place a chinchorro. “Fui a un chinchorro a comer mofongo (I went to a chinchorro to eat some mofongo)”. It means is a good place, but is not a fancy restaurant. Most likely it does not have air conditioning and it is outdoors.

  • Jangueo and Perreo. Jangueo is the Boricua word to hang out. “Vamos de jangueo” (Lets hang out). Perreo is when you dance with a partner to the rhythm of reguetón. Is like that twerking thing Miley Cirus and Robin Thicke did but with hip hop, Boricua hip hop.

Well, there you have it, a long post with lots of information. This is something you will not find in Rosetta Stone, this is real Boricua Spanish. And I am sure I missed a lot of the words we use, but it is too long already. If you have more words, if you want to know the definition for a Boricua word you heard or tried to read, write it on this post, or email me at enlopositivo@gmail.com. Enough for today, so until next time, cójanlo suave!


One more song, will ya!

Hey there everyone! It’s me again, and this time I will write about Boricua stuff, since my last post was a way for me to vent on the stuff that happens in life. That is not usually the posts I write, but I needed to put it out there for you to read and understand a little bit of how I am. But let’s continue with the fun Boricua life, shall we.

I love music, especially Salsa; but as long as there is rhythm I will dance or at least move my feet to the beat. And as a music lover, I have gone to some concerts here in the Island and also while I was living in Washington, DC. Last week, Bruno Mars came to visit the Island and have his concert here. My wife and my 15 year old sister-in-law got all dressed up and pretty to enjoy the concert. But before they left, and since it was my sister-in-law’s first concert, we felt we had to explain how things go. You would ask yourself “why does she need an explanation on what happens at a concert?” Once again my friend, one thing is to be Boricua and another thing is to be from somewhere else; there is stuff you will only see here.

I was there, somewhere!
I was there, somewhere!

To give you a background, 12 years ago I had the opportunity to drive along with many of my friends, to a Bon Jovi concert. We drove for some hours and we arrived at Giant Stadium in New Jersey. It was awesome to be there, at his house, with my friends and live music! Anyhow, we had fun. But when the band played his last song, I discovered something that we Boricuas do: we ask for one more song. After that song, only around 12 of the people who were in the packed stadium (me and my friends) started asking for another song, just one more song. People looked at us like saying “They already played for two hours man! Go home!”.

El Caballero de la Salsa
El Caballero de la Salsa

You see, if you come to a concert in Puerto Rico, (and this is something we explained to my sister-in-law) after the “last song” there is always a standing ovation, immediately followed by a unique and loud sound: “OTRA, OTRA, OTRA…” The chant con go for minutes and the band better come back and sing. Even the band knows they better come back. And when they do, the fun is even better; they play with more energy, the people are hyped and the show can go on for at least 20 more minutes. I was in a concert once, and when the band left, of course we wanted one more. All of a sudden a video plays on the jumbo screen. The lead singer is telling all his band mates: “Do you hear that? We need to go back”. One of the other guys would go “But we just played for 2:30 hours! We can’t go back”. “Is not about can – the lead singer said – they will not leave until we go back”. And he was right. They came back and sang for another half hour. Another time, in a salsa concert, after we requested one more, the singer came back and saw many people had left. “What happened to that people? Are they even Boricuas? Didn’t anybody tell them we have to come back to stage?”

¡COÑO, me quemé!
¡COÑO, me quemé!

BIG PARENTHESIS HERE for just one minute…Something else I noticed, and even though this is not a Boricua thing, is that some years ago people would light their lighters in concert and wave them side to side. Not even one single lighter would go off (even though you could hear an occasional “COÑO, ME QUEMÉ!!!). And nowadays, people would go to their phones, get the bright light in the screen but never waive it; they just raise it. I mean, the wind will not blow the cell light off people! Back to Boricuas…

BMSo now you know why we had to do some explaining to my sister-in-law. Needless to say, they both had a blast and of course, when Mr. Mars said “goodbye” she was ready and would not leave the stadium. She chanted, along with more than 16,000, OTRA, OTRA, OTRA… And Bruno is no fool, so he came back and sang some more.

Don’t forget to share this post and comment if you like. If you have any idea for a new post, or you want to write it yourself, you can email me to enlopositivo@gmail.com. Unitl next time, cójanlo suave!