Thanks to the Multnomah County Library (and our impending end of service language evaluation), we’ve started a new tradition: reading aloud in Spanish. It’s the perfect thing to pass the time while one of us (Andrew) is cooking, and or the other (Emily) is doing dishes. We can already tell our pronunciation is improving!
One of the most common expressions you’ll hear among Nicaraguans is the following:
Dale pues! (pronounced dah-lay pw-ace) – Yes. Absolutely!
Few dichos are as simple and effective at signaling your Nicaraguan street cred as dale pues. Two main characteristics of Nicaraguan Spanish are their abundant use of the filler word pues, and also not pronouncing the “s” at the end of the words. Therefore, if you really want to impress your Nica friends, get rid of that s!
Nica: ¿Querés ir al cine? (Wanna go to the movies?)
You: ¡Dale pue! (For sure!)
Nica: Nos vemos mañana a las 9am. (See you tomorrow at 9am)
You: Dale pue. (Sounds good.)
Nica: ¡Estás más Nica que gringo! ¿Querés un cafecito?
(You’re more Nicaraguan than American! Want some coffee?)
You: Dale pue. 🙂
Regardless of how people feel about the recent election results, this phrase may apply equally well to solace or celebration:
A cada chancho le llega su sábado – For every pig his Saturday will come.
Yet another dicho full of cultural depth and deliciousness! Chancho is the more common term used for pig in Nicaragua (and eight other Latin American countries), and, along with corn, is an important dish is many Nicaragua typical foods. Back in the day, Saturday was slaughter day for the chanchos of Nicaragua, as many pork dishes were (and still are) mainly prepared on the weekends. Nacatamales are a great example.
The equivalent saying for this dicho in English could be “what goes around, comes around.” In these times of political change in the U.S., it can be trying to be a representative of the American people when all of our dirty laundry is being aired out to dry. However, I have to keep hope that the arc of history is bending towards justice, and that my work and relationships here in country help, in some small way, to move it closer.
For more Nica slang, visit Gringo Guide 200. Cred for the awesome pig picture goes to them!
It’s election season! While true for the US, it’s also true for Nicaragua. As an apolitical organization, whose tenure in the country only lasts for as long as we have the invitation of the government, we are instructed not to give our opinion on Nicaraguan politics. Therefore, if this dicho gets directed our way, we must be doing something right:
Ni sos chicha ni limonada – You are neither a fermented, raspberry-flavored corn beverage nor lemonade.
Basically, this means you’re unaffiliated, or on the fence. If Ken Bone’s overnight celebrity status extends to Nicaragua, this dicho could be used to help orient the crowd to why he was selected to be on the debate stage in the first place. It can also be used for someone who changes their opinions on an issue. For so many reasons, this is the perfect dicho for this October.
As Emily mentioned in some of her previous posts, this period in our service can feel funky, an in-between phase. For example, I wrote in my journal yesterday about wanting to be present and savor every last moment here, but instead of going over to visit Nica friends I spent 3+ hours emailing different graduate school programs in school psychology.
One thing I’ve definitely been making sure to savor is the delicious, in-season corn. Nicaraguans are corn people. Two of their national monikers are Hijos del Maiz (Children of the Corn) and Pinoleros (Pinol People, pinol being a corn mixture used in drinks). There are countless corn dishes, drinks, desserts, etc. in the national cuisine. In my opinion, they are all quite scrumptious!
To celebrate Nicaraguan corn, and give voice to how we’re feeling at this point in our service, I give you the following dicho:
Entre camagua y elote – Between baby corn and full-fledged corn on the cob.
Chances are, if you’ve taken any Spanish classes in your life you know at least one way to answer the question “¿Cómo estás?”. While bien (well/fine) works perfectly well here, you’ll gain some serious points for invoking the corn. The closest standard Spanish equivalent to this dicho would be más o menos (pronounced má’ o meno’ here in Nica), meaning you’ve been better, but overall things are OK.
The new group of Peace Corps Trainees arrived this week, crazy! Welcome Nica 68! It seems like a few months ago (and a lifetime ago) that we were just starting our Peace Corps experience. Over the next three months, but especially during the next couple weeks, they’ll be getting a crash course on Nicaraguan culture and ways to avoid faux pas. Hopefully, this dicho can help a bit:
A la ley de Santa Marta, cada quien pago lo que se harta – By the law of Saint Martha, everyone pays for what they stuff themselves with.
Without context, you may not see why this phrase is important. However, consider that during training we receive about $10 a week. Our meals and lodging are paid directly by Peace Corps, but $10 is all we get for snacks, transport, etc. We’re also trying to integrate and get to know our host family and community members, so could very likely invite a new Nica friend to do something with us around town. But beware! In Nicaragua, the Spanish verb invitar suggests that you will cover all the expenses of the invitee. Try to clarify and say “Vamos a la ley de Santa Marta.”
Turns out the connotations of invitar aren’t just unique to Nicaragua. During our trip to Guatemala, I learned they have a similar expression: a la ley de Jesús Cristo, cada quien con su pisto – by the law of Jesus Christ, everyone uses their own money.
Transparency is always the best policy in these situations, because, as they say, cuentas claras conservan amistades – settled accounts maintain friendships.