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What’s the relation between tango and lunfardo? Posted by on Jun 26, 2013 in Spanish Culture

Do you know what lunfardo is? Check out this short Wikipedia intro:

Lunfardo is a dialect originated and developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the lower classes in Buenos Aires and the surrounding Gran Buenos Aires,and from there spread to other cities nearby, such as Rosario and Montevideo, cities with similar socio-cultural situations.

Originally, Lunfardo was a slang used by criminals and soon by other people of the lower and lower-middle classes.Later, many of its words and phrases were introduced in the vernacular and disseminated Castilian of Argentina and Uruguay.

Nevertheless, since the early 20th century, Lunfardo began to spread among all social strata and classes, either by habitual use or because it was common in the lyrics of tango.During the 20th and this century many of its words have gone to neighboring countries like Chile and Paraguay, because immigrants from those countries are living in Argentina.

A few have been recognized even by the Real Academia Española.

Now, what’s the relation between tango and lunfardo?

Tango was a means to make lunfardo known because a big percentage of tango lyrics, until today, use lunfardo terms. Tango was born in brothels and it was forbidden for many years because it was a beacon for criminals. As time went by it was accepted by society and today it is the music that showcases a whole nation.

Here are some common lunfardo terms:

Buyón – sopa, caldo
Cerebrar – pensar en algo, usar el cerebro
Chochamu – muchacho
Engrupir – engañar a alguien
Fiaca – flojera, pereza
Garpar – pagar
Gomías – amigos
Guita – dinero
Gurí – niño
Junar – buscar a alguien, conocer a alguien
Laburar – trabajar
Lorca – calor
Manyar – saber or comer
Mina – muchacha o mujer
Morfar – comer
Percanta – mujer joven
Pescar – to understand, to get it
Pibe – niño o hombre joven
Quilombo – un desastre, un jaleo

One of my favorite tango songs is Mano a Mano, by Carlos Gardel. It has lots of lunfardo words! Enjoy!

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About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.