HOW can you make your Spanish more Nicaraguan, yes, really speak like a Nicaraguan? Check out these twenty words and phrases that are common in the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes and delight your listeners with a few Nicaraguan sayings.
Cuecho means gossip and is used frequently in everyday speech and even appears in the newspapers from time to time. Legendary Nicaraguan folk singer Carlos Godoy Mejía speaks of a certain character he calls “La Tula Cuecho.” That basically means “Gertie the Gossip.” Bite your tongue!
2. alegrón de burro
When a donkey brays, it only lasts about 20 seconds. So this donkey’s happiness refers to any short-lived joy.
This is the local word for earrings, which varies quite a bit from the standard Spanish aretes.
4. andar chiva
A chiva refers literally to a female goat. But in Nicaragua if someone tells you “Ponte chiva,” it means to watch out, and be especially careful. Keep that in mind in certain Managua neighborhoods!
5. hacer un volado
With your knowledge of generic Spanish, you might think this refers to some kind of flight. Locally, however, it refers to a favor asked of a friend. “Hacéme un volado, porfa.” Translation: “Please do me a favor. Pleeeease.”
Don’t worry! There is no bomb in chimbomba. It’s merely the local word for a balloon. So blow up a few of them for your next party! It will be a blast!
The generic word for turkey is pavo. But in Nicaragua as well as the northern countries that comprise Central America, the local word is chompipe. I once had a good friend who was rather corpulent and had a double chin that wouldn’t quit. The locals dubbed him El Chompipe, and everyone in town knew him as such. So lay off that gallo pinto!
Spanish-speaking babies usually drink their milk from a biberón, or baby bottle. In Nicaragua, though, they get their nourishment through their pacha.
9. Algo es algo dijo el calvo, cuando le salió un pelito.
Pity the poor bald guy! How he rejoices at that one puny strand of hair that suddenly sprouts out of his well-polished noggin. In his delight, he might say this common saying. It literally means: “Something is something, said the bald man, when a hair suddenly grew.” The idea? Something is better than nothing!
10. huevos de amor
Don’t get offended! There is nothing kinky about huevos de amor in Nicaraguan Spanish. Rather, this refers to organic eggs, not the ones that come from the poor beasts that never leave their cages, but the chickens that are raised in more traditional and natural settings. The shells are usually a light brown color.
11. andar como perro en procesión
Nicaragua is famous for its processions and it seems that there is always a celebration of some sort going on. Invariably, however, there is always a clueless dog or two following the crowd. The dogs, of course, have no idea what is happening, but they are happy to follow along nonetheless. So this saying is used when someone is hopelessly lost or just hops on the current bandwagon, regardless of how ignorant he or she may be of the cause.
12. contra el cacho
This literally means against the horn. But the real meaning is to be running late. Example: “Apuráte, vos. Vamos contra el cacho.” Translation: “Hurry up! We’re running late.”
What exactly is a jaña? It merely is an informal term for a girlfriend. By the way, locally, the verb to date is jalar, which literally means to pull. This, however, is the figurative pulling of the heart strings.
14. llover sapos y culebras
In English when a torrential rainstorm hits us, we might say: “It’s raining cats and dogs!” Of course, if you translate this literally, it makes no sense in Spanish. In Nicaragua, you have this reptilian option, which literally means: “It’s raining toads and snakes!” Yikes!
15. el cumiche
In the Nahuatl language anciently spoken in Nicaragua, cumiche literally meant small skirt. Back in those days the young children in the tribes wore skirts and the smallest of them wore the smallest skirt of all. So cumiche has come to mean the baby of the family.
16. Otro gallo cantará
Roosters are everywhere in Nicaragua, so don’t be surprised if you are startled out of bed at 5 a.m. by a hearty cock-o-doodle-do! But when a Nicaraguan says Otro gallo cantará, he means, That’s another story, or, That’s a different matter. Don’t be afraid to use it in everyday speech. That’s right, don’t be chicken!
There is no one generic Spanish word for a drinking straw, which is well explained in this article on latinflyer.com. Rather, almost every country has developed its own version. Remember that in Nicaragua, it is a pajilla.
Since pulpo in Spanish is an octupus, you might think that a pulpería would refer to some kind of an octupus store. But don’t ruffle your tentacles! A pulpería is merely a family-run store. Usually you can find soft drinks, bread, and other staple items here, and there is usually more than one on every block in the country.
19. andar en la ruta 11
In Managua all the buses have route numbers, like 110, 123, and so on. But, if someone says that you are on Route 11, he is not referring to any bus ride! This is a figure of speech, because when a person is walking, the silhouette of his legs appears to a distant observer as the number 11.
Every have a bad hair day? The chirizo has had a bad hair life! If someone is described as being chirizo it means that he has hair that stands on end!
So, add these words and sayings to your Nicaraguan Spanish portfolio! Use them in everyday life and you will elicit many smiles and a chuckle or two! Your Nicaraguan friends will be grateful.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources:
Nicaraguan Spanish: Speak like a Native! This volume offers an in-depth discussion of more than 200 Nicaraguan words, phrases and sayings and is chock full of examples of actual use. In Nicaragua, you can get a copy at Lucha Libro Books located at Avenida Miguel de Cervantes, de la Casa de la Mujer media cuadra norte, Granada.
7 Nicaraguan Spanish Slang Expressions about money Jared Romey over at speakinglatino.com has put together a collection of words and phrases from a number of Latin countries, including Nicaragua.