Friday, April 15, 2011

Costa Rican Slang

I've been exposed to the Spanish language all my life.  Panamanian-style Spanish (from my own mother and grandmother); Cuban-style Spanish from a large part of the population of Miami, Florida; and Mexican-style Spanish learned mostly from TV shows (such as the very funny "El Chapulin Colorado").  You'd think that all that exposure would have prepared me to understand Costa Ricans as they speak to each other without any problem. The truth is, when I first moved here I often found myself at at a loss as to what in the world was being said due to the use of so much Costa Rican slang.  I'd always have to ask my boyfriend later in private to clarify things for me.
I'm sure I'll learn a lot more Costa Rican slang in the months to come, but in the meantime, I'll share with you 10 of the most used Costa Rican slang phrases you're likely to hear during your stay or visit in the country:

  1. Chunche (choon-chay): use this to refer to anything that you don’t know the correct name for (kind of like “thingamajig”)
  2. Diay (dee-ay):  This is a commonly used filler word.  Throw it in pretty much anywhere you like while speaking (sort of like “um”, “like”, “man”)
  3. Guila (pronounced gwee-lah):  “una guila” is a girl, and “un guila” is a boy.  My mother-in-law-to-be enjoys using this term somewhat derogatively, as when she wants to refer to someone is breeding kids all over the place, she’ll say: “Ese tiene guilas por todos lados”.
  4. Macha / Macho (mah-cha / mah - choh): a blond-haired or light-skinned female /  male
  5. Mae (my):  Used to mean "dude" between friends, or simply to refer to any man or woman ("ese mae te esta buscando" = "that guy is looking for you").
  6. Por dicha (poor dee-chah):  thank goodness; fortunately
  7. Pura paja (poor-ah pa-hah): crap; bullshit
  8. Pura vida (poor-ah vee-dah):  this literally means "pure life". It is probably the number one Costa Rican slang phrase used throughout the country. My boyfriend will use it as a greeting, as a way to end a phone call, as a way to say thanks, or when someone has just given him some really good news.
  9. Soda (soh-dah): They are probably not talking about a soft drink whenever you here this phrase, rather it usually refers to the small, family-run typical restaurants you’ll find at every neighborhood corner.
  10. Tuanis (too-ahn-ees):  This popular phrase means "cool".  It is said to be a Spanish adaptation of the American phrase of approval "too nice!"
Learn More About Costa Rican Spanish:

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