Mapuche Chilenismos: How to Confuse Dominican Preschoolers

Mapuche ancestral territory

Continuing with this week’s theme of heritage, today’s post introduces a few words the Chilean lexicon has adopted from Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people.

The word Mapuche means literally the people (che) of the land (mapu), and the Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile.

There are many choice, and so I’ve narrowed today’s selection to some words that thoroughly confused my preschool class of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Guatemalans back when I was in the States.

1.  Guata*: barriga, stomach.  This is an incredibly common word.

Seeing that a student is crying and holding his stomach, I ask, “¿Te duele la guata?”  (Does your stomach hurt?)

He responds, “¡No, me duele la barriga!” and proceeds to throw up numerous times.

2.  Cuncuna: oruga, caterpillar.  I often sang the well known Chilean children’s song, “Una Cuncuna Amarilla” (below), to my students, and I was surprised at how many didn’t know the word cuncuna.  Turns out it’s a word from Mapudungun.  Thanks, Chile.

3.  Guagua*: bebé, baby.  Ok, so in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, guagua means bus.  In preschool, we talk about both babies and buses a lot.  Imagine the confusion.

Me: ¿Tienes una guagua en casa?  (Do you have a baby at home?)

Student: No.  Tenemos un carro.  (No.  We have a car.)

4.  Cahuín: chisme, gossip.  This is one of my favorite Chilenismos.  A cahuín was a celebratory meeting of Mapuche leaders and chiefs in which they discussed the current state of affairs.  Later, it became known more for the drunkenness of such events, and where there’s drunkenness, there’s gossip.

During recess a child runs up to me: Teacher!  Roberto está diciendo que yo me quiero casar con Amanda.  (Teacher!  Robert is saying that I want to marry Amanda.)

Me: ¿A ver, Roberto?  ¿Andas cahuineando?  (What’s this, Roberto?  Are you gossiping?)

5.  Pichintúnpoquito, little bit.  This word is related to the word pichi, which means “little.”  This is also the reason that people say they need to hacer pichi; it’s not just a funny way of saying pipi.  They’re saying they need to “go a little” instead of saying “go pee.”

Me, giving instructions: Sólo tienes que usar un pichintún de pegamento. [Giggles.]  (You only need to use a little bit of glue.)

There are many other Mapudungun adoptions to explore, but we’ll leave those for another post.  Have a good weekend, everyone!

* These words are similar to quechua words for the same thing.

Mapuche flag


Of Goats and Men: Chilean Words for People

Welcome back to Chilenismos of the Week!  This week we’re taking a look at common ways to talk about people in general: the dudes, Joe Schmoes, kids, and chicks of Chilean lingo.

Qué gallo.

Tipo/a: Chileans will commonly use tipo/tipa, literally “type,” as an informal way of saying man or woman.  They use it the same way we might use “guy.”  For example:

¿Cómo se llama ese tipo norteamericano que se casó con Beyoncé?  

Translation: “What’s the name of that American guy who married Beyoncé?

Gallo: Some of you may met someone who thinks he’s the “cock of the walk.”  Roosters are known for their bravado, for their swag, you could say, and they have long held an influential place in Chilean folk tradition.  In fact, the national dance, the cueca, is said to be the imitation of the mating ritual of chickens.

So yes, the first use of gallo is the same as tipo—it’s used informally like “guy” would be in English.  And someone who is “gallo,” used as an adjective, is very capable.  Remember, a good rooster will sing in any henhouse.

Cabro/a:  This literally means goat.  I have no clever guesses as to why Chileans started to call each other goats.  But we call our children kids, so I can’t be hating.  It just so happens that Chileans do the same; they call young people or children “cabros chicos.”I'm not a kid!

¡OJO!  In Perú, this is a derogatory phrase for homosexual men.  So be careful.

Mina/o: A sexy lady, a babe; a stud or a hunk—basically, hot stuff.  I’m not going to speculate about the origins of this Chilenismo, but I will point out that mina means mine, as in copper mines, gold mines, etc.  You are welcome to surmise what you will.

Lola/o:  A lola or lolo is an adolescent or young teen.  Does this come from Lolita?  Maybe.  Let’s not think about it.  Because in Chile, any teenybopper is a lola, and it doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality.  It would really disturb me if they actually thought of all their young teen girls as Lolitas.

Chilenismos of the Week!

From: Inciclopedia

As many of you know, Chileans speak a unique form of Spanish that is known in more technical circles of linguistic study as gibberish.  Part of this is the infamous Chilean accent, which, of course, varies slightly by region and, more notoriously, by class.  Another is the Chilean adaptation of voseo.  And then there is the lexicon, a mash of words adopted from Mapudungun, ascribed double or triple meanings, or strung together into idiomatic phrases that you won’t understand unless you’ve been to Chile.  In short, these are the Chilenismos.

I’ve taken it upon myself to spread knowledge of this language and expand its reach beyond its Darwinian isolation.

This will be a weekly post of about five words or phrases that I’ve been mulling over during the week.  ¡¡Warning: Some of these posts will deal with strong or vulgar language!!  I will mark them with “¡!” in case you are not interested in reading them.

Enjoy!  Feel free to post comments, questions, or requests.