Shortly after you arrive in Chile, you will notice two constant tag-ons at the end of most sentences: ¿cachaí? and po.
The po is the simpler of the two—it’s just a bastardized version of the word “pues” and is used to emphasize everything and anything. For example:
- Sí, po (“Yes!” or “Of course.”)
- Ya po (This can mean agreement, like “alright”; it can also indicate a complaint, like “Yaaaa, po, stop bothering me!”)
- ¿Cómo estaí, po? (“How are you??”)
- Or… ¡Pero no me peguííííís, po! (Don’t hit me!!)
Many of you Spanish students may not recognize that this is, in fact, a verb. What? What kind of conjugation is that? you may ask yourself. That, my friends, is the Chilean version of voseo. But we’ll get to that lovely detail in another post. In the meantime, it’s only important for you to cachar the meaning and some uses of the verb cachar.
There are a couple different stories about where this word comes from, but the most popular is that it comes from the English “to catch,” as in “I didn’t quite catch what you said.” And so finishing a sentence with ¿cachaí? effectively translates to: “you catch?” or “you dig?” or better yet, this Jack Nicholson impression in Aladdin. You got it?
Good. Let’s move on to some other applications.
- ¿Cachaste? You are walking with your friend when one of her coworkers appears. “Oh,” she says. “Catalina. She always gives me ugly looks.” After the two parties pass silently, your friend turns to you and says, “¿Cachaste?” You agree that Catalina did give her an ugly look. “Sí, caché.”
- Cáchate Why say cáchate when you could just say cacha for an imperative? Because the –te adds emphasis. This is a very emphatic command: COMPREHEND. For example, you’re explaining how you had been trying to pay your phone bill for weeks, but all of the bank’s services were down. Then you got stuck with a huge interest charge. You might finish the story with an incredulous “cáchate.” Like a “just imagine that!” or “let that one soak in for a bit.”
- No cacha ni una… He doesn’t understand anything. Ni una huevada. But if he is diligent in his attempts to understand, he eventually can say…
- Por fin, me pegué la cachada. Finally, I got it!
As you can see, this verb can be used in all forms and tenses, although it is pretty informal, and I wouldn’t recommend using it in conjunction with usted.
Variations in accent:
Finally, there are notorious accent differences in the pronunciation of cachaí. This is because of the gradation in percussiveness of “ch” according to class.
- People from the upper classes will often make the “ch” sound like ⟨t͡s⟩, almost like in “pizza.”
- A more moderate pronunciation is tʃ, the sound we use in “church.”
- And people from more rural or working class backgrounds are more likely to make an /sh/ or ʃ sound. ¿Cashay o no cashay?