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New Words or ‘Nuevas Palabras’

New Words or ‘Nuevas Palabras’

You may have heard the phrase “chulo!’ before; in some countries it refers to someone being attractive, in others it’s just ‘cool’. The second meaning is what I understood it to be when I came to Chile. Luckily, my Chilean mother stopped me the first time I said it in front of her (although it took a ‘chilena’, a chilean girl, to fully explain how the term is perceived here) and prevented any future faux pas; in Chile, ‘chulo’ is the equivalent of something trashy.

The substitute word that Chileans have given me to use is the term ‘Bacán’.

This is just one of the many new words that I’ve learned since coming to Santiago. It means ‘cool’, and is a word [apparently] only used in Chile.

(Offbeat information: The term actually comes from the American term ‘Rock on!” – they sound very similar when said quickly and heard by someone who doesn’t speak both languages fluently.)

This is just one example of the ‘chileanisms’ or ‘modismos’ (a word that means ‘idioms’ but also used for ‘slang’) that are used so often here, and one small example of something I hadn’t even though about encountering.

Some others that I particularly like:

  1. Pellolo, which is both a bug that’s attracted to light and also a boyfriend (or pellola for girlfriend). The term ‘novio’ and ‘novia’ here usually refer to fiancé and fiancées
  2. The verb ‘cachar’, meaning ‘to catch’ is used as ‘to understand’ in slang terms. ‘Caches?’ (you catch?) is the equivalent of ‘do you get me/it?”

Additionally, the ‘word’ ‘po’ is added on to the end of a lot of things as a kind of emphasizer (words from the mouth of a chileno). The add-on is actually a shortened form of the Castillian/Spanish term ‘pues’, which means ‘well’, ‘as’, or ‘so’. As such, it’s very common to hear ‘sípo’, ‘nopo’, or even ‘yapo’.

Although these terms aren’t exactly academic and aren’t words that will aid me tremendously in furthering my educational Spanish/Castillian, they are the things that I love learning because it’s part of the Chilean lifestyle- part of the culture. Knowing these things is [to me] a sign that I’m starting to integrate, starting to [partially] become a more like the most important part of Chile- its people.

Hasta luego,


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