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Lunfardo: Buenos Aires Slang Posted by on Nov 12, 2007 in Spanish Vocabulary

Argentina is largely a country of immigrants and is distinguished from its Latin American neighbors by its mainly European ethnic roots: according to the CIA’s World Fact Book, 97% of Argentines consider themselves to be of European origin. The majority of immigrants to Argentina, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hailed from Spain and Italy, while Germans, Slavs, French and others also contributed in significant numbers. Buenos Aires served as a linguistic as well as ethnic mixing pot, leading to the creation of a distinctly Argentine form of slang, called lunfardo. Many lunfardo terms are adaptations of Italian or French words, others are simply unique creations, and others employ a strategy of syllable reversal in which tango becomes gotán and café becomes feca. This slang is spoken primarily in Buenos Aires, and is featured heavily in some tango songs and certainly among the city’s hip population.

 

Lunfardois often unintelligible to Spanish speakers from other countries, let alone to the Spanish student innocently seeking linguistic immersion in one of Latin America’s most esteemed capital cities. I myself faced the challenge of lunfardo when I spent six months studying in Buenos Aires. Arriving a bit cocky about my language abilities after having communicated with ease during a previous study abroad stint in Mexico and in high-level college courses, I was quickly put in my place. The porteño (adjective meaning “from Buenos Aires”) accent was difficult enough to comprehend; coupled with lunfardo,I felt a bit like I had landed on an alien planet.

The following are some of the most common expressions, although you can find an extensive lunfardo to Spanish dictionary at <a href=”http://www.elportaldeltango.com.ar/lunfardo/p.htm”http://www.elportaldeltango.com.ar/lunfardo/p.htm Be careful with its use, however, because as with most slang, not all words are appropriate for use in all social situations.

Lunfardo Conventional Spanish English
la fiaca la pereza laziness
el laburo el trabajo work
la mina chica, chava chick, girl
morfar comer to eat
el pibe/pebete el niño boy
la piba/pebeta la niña girl
la plata/guita el dinero money
el quilombo el desorden, el caos mess, chaos
trucho falso fake, counterfeit

For the advanced Spanish speaker, take a look at the lyrics to Mario Cécere´s tango Milonga Lunfarda, sung by Eduardo Rivero. The entire song is a lesson in lunfardo. Suerte!

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Comments:

  1. DavidVoice:

    I am pleased this article was written. I first visited Argentina in 2002,and my 5th visit was in 2006. As a beginner in the Spanish Language in 2004, I noticed little differences in Argentine Spanish vs say Central America, and other parts of South America.

    Last year, I flew from Guatemala to Argentina. In Guatemala I understood about 85% of daily conversation. Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, that dropped immediately to about 50%. Yes Argentines speak differently, not just in pronunication, diction and rythym of sentences:they use different words and it takes a bit of getting used to that.

    Not that one cannot survive in Argentina on “textbook” Spanish, and outside of Buenos Aires for me its seems there is a bit less of the Argentine slang. Argentines will understand “textbook* Spanish and be patient enough to teach one a few words of “lunfardo” as well!

    Great article, thanks!

  2. caradoc:

    Gracias por el articulo
    Creo que la parabola correcta no es “es” sino “son”

    The following is some of the most common expressions, although you can find an extensive lunfardo to Spanish dictionary at http://www.elportaldeltango.com.ar/lunfardo/p.htm Be careful with its use, however, because as with most slang, not all words are appropriate for use in all social situations.

    Either ” the following ARE….”
    or ” The following IS a list…”

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