Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cussing and slang in Mexico: it´s all about Mom

Mexican slang and cursing are different from every other Latin American country. The best place to find out why is in Octavio Paz´s classic essay on Mexican identity, "The Labyrinth of Solitude."

It´s all about Mother. Or the children of the Violated Mother, los hijos de la Chingada.

Mexicans use that phrase to describe themselves with a mixture of pride and bitter irony. It has to do with their history: indigenous women taken or raped by Spanish conquistadors and colonists. The Woman as Victim, a person they identify with. (Her opposite is the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Woman as Refuge and Protector.)

Paz dedicates much of a chapter to the unique Mexican use of the word chingar: in this country, it´s as vulgar as saying f---, but in other countries it means to fail or get drunk or mess up.

Daily speech in Mexico is filled with expressions about mother:

Un desmadre (trans.- dis-mother) is a mess.

Desmadrarse (trans. to dis-mother oneself) means to go wild.

Ya estoy hasta la madre (trans. - I´ve reached motherliness) means I´ve had it, I´m tired, I´m sick of it.

Te voy a romper la madre (trans. - I´m going to break/wreck your mother) means I´m going to kick your ass.

Me vale madre (trans. it´s worth mother to me) means, I don´t give a shit.

A toda madre (trans. - totally mother) means very good.

Me cae de madre (lit. - he/she strikes me as mother) means I think he/she is cool or great.

De poca madre, (trans. - not very mother) means cool, very good.

Mentada de madre (lit. - mention of mother) means to insult someone´s mother.

The legendary mentada de madre here in Jaliso came when the governor, clearly drunk at a fundraising event, presented a check of state money to the Cardinal to build a sanctuary.

The donation was highly controversial because Mexicans have a love-hate relationship with the Church. The governor had been roundly criticized. So in presenting the check to the Cardinal, the governor told his critics and all the electronic media, "If you don´t like it, then chingue a su madre" (f--- your mother).

Dad, on the other hand, is not associated with victimhood but with power and control.

Yo soy tu padre (lit. I´m your daddy) means I own your ass.

Qué padre (lit. - How dadly) means cool or great. Padrísimo is even better.

I work with a guy who is a poet in the way he fills every line of speech with creative variations on four or five vulgar words, in all of their shapes and variations. Cab drivers are quite good at it as well.

The words for me do not have the weight of culture and history. I´m like a child playing with sharp knives. I don´t know how to pick them up or throw them around without causing injury.

Or the words seem to be mere puffs of air without substance, until I utter one and see it jerk someone´s head back.

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