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13 phrases that only Mexicans understand

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Mexican Mariachi

Some time ago, a Dutch collegue of mine sent me this interesting email where Mexican phrases were literally tranlated to english. I can tell you that for me I was serioulsly laughing after reading these phrases. I hope you can enjoy them in the same way I did it. Perhaps, this will help you to understand the Mexican culture, and why not, this can help you in your learning spanish,

1. “¡Ya nos cayó el chahuiztle!”

Literally: “The chahuiztle is upon us!”

Sounds like a bad omen, right? Well, it is. Chahuiztle is the generic name for some parasites (especially fungi) that infest commercially important crops. The phrase implies that our problems are going from bad to worse and everything will soon go to hell. Some people misspell the phrase as “¡Ya nos cargó el chahuiztle!” which literally means “The chahuiztle is carrying us!” This second phrase is evidently wrong since fungi do not have arms to carry people around. There are, however, some creepy characters that can (metaphorically) carry us to our demise, like the infamous Coco or the Clown.

2. “¡Le andas dando vuelo a la hilacha!”

Literally: “You’re letting the rag fly!”

Living as if there were no tomorrow is the meaning behind this strange metaphor. The rag represents your favorite source of pleasure or the one that’s most available at any given time. Letting it fly implies that you’re getting the best out of it.

3. “¿Te doy un aventón al metro?”

Literally: “Want me to push you into the subway?”

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with euthanasia or anything of this sort. We are just kindly offering you a ride to the closest metro station. No need to panic.

4. “Tu cuate el fresa me cae bien gordo.”

Literally: “Your strawberry friend is falling very fat on me.”

Quite a complicated sentence, but a good example of the amount of figurative speech commonly used in Mexico. Fresa (strawberry) refers to a snobby or posh person; the verb fall is not to be taken literally, it is used to express how we like someone; finally, gordo (fat) is indicating that we don’t like that someone at all. So, after solving the puzzle we end up with something like: I can’t stand that snobby friend of yours!

5. “¡Ya, afloja!”

Literally: “Loosen up!”

This one’s not as simple as it looks. When we tell someone to loosen up, we are not directly addressing the person but to one of their possessions. We use this phrase to ask for something borrowed, to reclaim a debt, and to beg for sex. Everything depends on the context! But beware, if a complete stranger approaches you with this phrase…well, then you’re probably being mugged.

6. “Amárrate esas pinches agujetas que te vas a dar un ranazo.”

Literally: “Tie those fucking agujetas if you don’t want to get the big frog.”

Quite a funny phrase and pretty much unintelligible. First off, nobody uses the word agujetas outside Mexico. It refers to shoelaces and, admittedly, it’s a hilarious word. The second funny thing here is the word ranazo (big frog). In Mexico, we love superlatives and sometimes we use them in odd ways. Here the superlative is used to make reference to a collision (between the guy with the untied shoelaces and, most probably, the floor). How did an amphibian get involved in this situation? I have no fucking idea!

7. “Fui a chacharear un rato.”

Literally: “I went out to chacharear for a while.”

Chacharear is a verb with a very specific meaning: useless merchandise that’s normally quite cheap (cheap souvenirs are perfect examples) and chacharear is the act of going out and spending time looking at chacharas. It doesn’t imply buying them, just looking at them. This activity is a Mexican favorite when we go on vacations.

8. “Me quedé echando la hueva todo el día.”

Literally: “I stayed here expelling the egg the whole day.”

Eggs can symbolize either bravery, testicles, or laziness. The phrase we have here is clearly an example of the latter. The egg or the laziness is continuously expelled by the person possessed by it in an effort to construct an empire of sloth. Quite inviting I must say…

9. “¡Sepa la bola!”

Literally: “May the ball know!”

This phrase could be easily replaced with a simple “I don’t know”, but we Mexicans love overcomplicating expressions. Despite some hypothesis that pretend to justify the expression (la bola surely makes reference to the unruly masses during the Mexican Revolution), we have to admit it’s kind of freaky. But don’t worry, we don’t really believe there is an all-knowing entity known as The Ball whose infinite wisdom must be acknowledged at every possible occasion.

10. “Mi bici no es nueva pero da el gatazo.”

Literally: “My bike isn’t new but it gives the big cat.”

Another strange use of a superlative. But this time there is no cat-bike collision, nor any other accident. Dar el gatazo (to give the big cat) is an expression that simply implies maintaining appearances.

11. “Me hace lo que el viento a Juárez.”

Literally: “Gives me the same trouble as the wind gave Juarez.”

This phrase has every element to become a classic: it has natural forces, historical figures (Benito Juarez is a famous ex-president) and has an uncertain origin, even though every Mexican knows exactly what it means. There are a lot of theories trying to justify the victory of Juarez against the wind, but none of them is recognized as an absolute truth. I think that the phrase refers to Juarez’s hairdo, which could withstand a hurricane without the slightest. You can tell the guy put some serious attention in that hair.

12. “¡Rífate por la banda!”

Literally: “Raffle yourself for the band!”

This expression has elements of gambling and football, but refers to neither. Quite a common phrase between friends (the band) to convince one of its members to make an extra effort (to raffle oneself) for the sake of the common good or for the sake of the speaker. Raffling yourself means going above and beyond for your friends, like picking them up late at night or joining them at a boring family reunion.

13. “Ahí nos vidrios.”

Literally: “There us glass.”

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