9 Colombian Idioms and Their English Equivalents

You know you’ve finally moved beyond textbook Spanish once you’re confidently using local idioms and proverbs.  While turns of speech can be a fun and often hilarious way of reassuring yourself that you really are approaching fluency, when it comes to Spanish this can be a rabbit-hole with no end.  For one thing, Spanish being the official language of 20 countries, there are 20 different versions of the Spanish language, each entirely different from the next.  In addition to this, quite a few Latino countries have such wildly particular jerga, or slang to make their form of Spanish practically another dialect entirely.  That being said, be careful with these nine idioms—they are uniquely Colombian and may mean something entirely different in another country!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Wikipedia

1. Caerle a una chico/chica.  It translates as “to fall at a boy/girl” and means roughly to woo somebody, to shower them with gifts and compliments, to take them out on dates with romantic ends in mind.

2. Echar los perros.  The real meaning behind this one is not so clear as caerle a alguien; translating to “to throw dogs” at somebody, in Colombian street-talk, it means to flirt with them.

3.  Sacar canas verdes.  It translates to the nonsensical “to pull out green hairs,” and roughly means to drive someone crazy.  It corresponds to the English phrases, “to drive someone up a wall,” or, “to give someone grey hair.”

4.  Me importa un comino.  This is what Rhett Butler would say to shoot down Scarlett O’Hara if he was Colombian: “I don’t give a damn.”  It translates as, “It matters a speck of cumin to me,” meaning, of course, that the subject under discussion is infinitesimally small.

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Photo by Béaba

5.  Me gustan los cuentos claros y el chocolate espeso.  “I like clear stories and thick chocolate.”  This refers to Colombians’ preference for being honest and straightforward—if you have something to say, say it their face.

6.  Le cuento el milagro pero no el santo.  “I’ll tell you the miracle, but not the saint.”  This is a favorite saying of chismosas, or chronic gossipers, meaning they’ll tell you a shocking story but the perpetrators will stay anonymous.

7.  ¿Y quién pidió el pollo?  A nonsensical way to echar los perros at someone.  It translates to “who ordered the chicken?” and works as a pick-up line when a handsome man or woman enters the vicinity—apparently being compared to chicken is flattering to Colombians?

8.  Estar en la olla.  To be in bad times, whether financially or otherwise.  It translates as “to be in the pot,” and is comparable to the English “to be in hot water.”

9.  Rumbear.  A crucial word to not only know in Colombian society, but to live.  Rumbear means to party, taken, of course, from the dance rumba.  Traveling or living in a country that takes its good times very seriously, you will definitely encounter this word more than once!

If you’re curious to learn more surprising Latin American Spanish phrases, send us an inquiry for information about courses, or take our free online Spanish language level test.

 

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