We have already spoken on our blog other times about how Colombian Spanish seems to us the best spoken and pronounced in our continent. As the only Latino-non-Colombian on this team and after having lived in several Latin American countries, I absolutely believe that this is definitely the case; Colombia – especially in Bogotá – is the country where not only is spoken with more clarity, but it also has a touch that recalls something classic and even stately, maintaining certain phrases and words that for other Spanish speakers may sound strange and even taken from another time.
With Marcela, my Colombian wife, I always joke, telling her how formal things are that are generally very informal. For the same phrase, for example, in Peru we would say “I’m going to suck with my legs”, in Argentina “I’m going to get into trouble with the kid” and in Chile “I’m going to heal with the goats” And what does it mean? All that, translated into Colombian?: “I’m going to drink with my friends.”
If, as they say, language creates realities, I believe that this perception that all foreign travelers that we are in Colombia have and that we consider our home – I speak of the perception that Colombians are probably one of the most beloved and friendly peoples on the planet – It has a lot to do with how Colombians speak and communicate with each other.
Here are 8 unique phrases from Colombia that I have only heard here:
1. “Qué pena con usted”
This is one of the phrases I hear most frequently in everyday life. Once I started to count how many times they said it to me in a day, and they were… 17! It should be clarified that here in Colombia “grief” is used as “shame” and not referring to something that is pitiful. It is basically a very nice way of saying “excuse me” or “sorry” and is used for things as small as when you accidentally bump into walking or as big as when the teller tells you that the bank account surprisingly went to zero.
2. Qué pecao!
This is a bit difficult to explain and ‘translate’, I hear it mainly from women, and it is used on several occasions. A very cute baby? ¡Qué pecao! A very old man and a very old woman who go hand in hand? ¡Qué pecao! Something bad, but not very serious, happened to someone? (like a little boy crying because the ice cream fell) “¡Ay, qué pecao!”.
3. Su merced
One of my favorites for how wonderfully anachronistic it sounds. Although it is no longer heard as much in the younger generations, it is still very common to hear that people say to each other “Su Merced” (pronounced “su Mercé”), Obviously, those who refer to others in this way, never, they would allow themselves to address others using a familiar form.
The anger builds up, but you are not in the right place or company to say “F/%$ck!” (“Son of a…”, for more clarification 🙂), so instead the blow is softened with a very Colombian “Juemadre!”. Clearly more suitable but less soft than the nondescript “Juepucha”. Also, valid to highlight a surprise (good or bad – see photo).
5. Me regalas…?
On several occasions I have seen Colombians in other countries having misunderstandings for their use of “¿me regalas?”, I remember once in Buenos Aires in a McDonald’s, that the guy who was attending answered in a very Buenos Aires way to a Colombian girl who did your request “Here we do not give anything away che, everything is paid”. The truth is that in Colombia when you borrow something for a moment or ask for something to be passed on to you, you say “¿Me regalas?” which means: can you give me a gift?” and not “can I borrow?” or “can you pass me?” Don’t get confused.
6. Con gusto
Or its variations “With much pleasure”, “With much pleasure”. They are as common as “qué pena…” and it is basically a “There is no why” or “You’re welcome.” Considered an extremely respectful phrase in other Spanish-speaking countries, it is – like other phrases – a legacy of more formal times.
7. A la orden
It is another very correct variation of “you’re welcome” but it is also a way of saying “at your service” and is used a lot to, for example, “call” people in markets or places like the top of Cerro Monserrate where there are many small shops of souvenirs and typical restaurants where everyone (EVERYONE) invites you to go to the shout of “Alaordenalordenlardenlaorden …”
8. Este culicagao!
The first time Marcela told me like this, I didn’t know what to think, the first thing that came to mind was the literal image and I even felt a little offended, imagine it. It turns out that culicagao is said to children colloquially, and it is not difficult to know where the concept comes from: culi (Little ass) – cagao (Craped). You also tell someone when they are immature – as in my case.
There are many more words and phrases that are 100% Colombian, but these are the ones that most catch my attention because of how every day they are. Living in Colombia with the eyes of a foreigner is incredible not only because of the customs and landscapes but because it is also a pleasure to listen to its people speak.
BONUS: Do you want to know how this blog about our beloved Colombia started? Click Here to read the history of the Colombia Travel Blog 🙂.