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Spanglish…el bad boy de linguistics

Ask any bilingual professional (especially in marketing) what they think of using Spanglish and they’ll tell you there is no place for it in marketing, advertising, etc. They’ll get self righteous and well postured as they tell you this. Then as soon as they walk out, they’ll start using Spanglish, especially if a couple of beers are involved.

Why is that? Is it butchering the language? If done incorrectly, you just screwed up 2 languages. Especially if a message is being delivered via media channels to get a point across or sell something. Face it, bad use of Spanglish can make you come across as ignorant, illiterate, and like you’re part of the-low-tooth-per-head-ratio crowd.

However, on a personal interaction level, Spanglish can be great. Sort of like speaking your own Secret Global Citizen Code, like an Hombre Secreto on a mission of some sort. Or at the very least you’ll sound like you’re enjoying yourself. One time a non-Spanish speaking
friend of mine, upon hearing two of us speaking Spanglish and going back and forth, asked me why we do that. Why? I never thought about it, but I guess it’s because we can. We can, therefore why not, right? It’s that Hombre Secreto Code thing, right?

I’ve always heard a lot of Spanglish. I was born in a Mexican border town and grew up in Arizona, so I’ve heard a lot of this linguistic fusion. I think it’s a natural for bilingual/bicultural gente.

Here’s a good example I’ve heard quite often around farm areas: “Okay, hay me esperas, then I’ll get mi troca y te recojo and then vamos a lonchar en la chuck wagon, okay?”

It’s a beautifully appreciated global code system when you hear it spoken really fast too. Very natural. Especially given the fact that Latinos use our hands to punctuate or tone down dialogue, even on the phone. Then when you factor in the end of the work day, some cervezas and some verbal madrazos, the lenguaje gets very colorful.

In case you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker, here’s a quick crash course in Spanglish and the art of the madrazo (cervezas not required):

  • “Hey, bring me that little chingadera, please.”
  • “If you kids don’t behave, I’m going to get my pinche chancla and then van a ver who’s in charge around here.”
  • “Hey_________(insert MLB player name here)! Don’t be such a maricón…that was a good pitch!”

That last one can be a pretty good, or bad insult. Be prepared for accompanying laughter or a potentially violent reaction. Note: on all of the above, be sure to use hand and head gestures when incorporating them into everyday conversations.

There you go. You’re now ready to start using Spanglish, and on your way to becoming a Secret Global Citizen, complete with your own linguistic code.

What are some of your favorite phrases you hear or use?

This blog post originally ran in Latina-ish on 7/28/10.

4 comments. Leave a Reply

  1. Joe, excellent post! You provide an excellent window into the dynamic cultural mix that we Latinos experience on a daily basis. I’m lovin’ your examples…lol. On point and very true.

  2. Thanks, Jose. This was fun writing. Just a matter of thinking back on everyday conversations, as I’m sure you can attest to. Gracias!

    • oh I am loving this I never did meatsr the subjunctive, perhaps I never will. Reflexive? Forget it! heh. But this was great education for me. This also reminds me that I need to listen to more Spanish so that I don’t lose it. I try to read a little bit every day but to listen, quite a different story! I love the way you write, very amusing and don’t mind me while I peruse other older posts here. LOVE language-related stuff!!

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