So you’ve been in Madrid a while and you might have noticed that people use some very colourful slang and colloquial expressions. Here are the most common that you might have heard:
1. Me importa un pimiento: Following Antonio Banderas’ charming video explaining typical Spanish slang, this was one of the examples he explained. A “pimiento” in English is a “pepper.” Translated literally, this phrase means, “I care a pepper.” It’s meaning is that “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.”
2. Ser un chaval: This expression is something I feel whenever I go to a disco in Spain and feel like the oldest possible person there. Most of the people are “chavales” or “kids”. If someone is a “chaval” it means that they are just kids. It can also mean someone who is naive or inexperienced and may be used by an older manager to reference a younger employee. It is also an affectionate term like “dude” in English and the youths of Madrid often refer to each other as “chaval” or “chavala” (for females).
3. Que mono!: This phrase in Spain means “cute” or “adorable.” So despite “mono” meaning “monkey” in Spanish, it is often used as a fond expression, especially towards young children. This makes it easier when you think that someone has an unattractive baby and you can’t think of any other compliment. You can also say that a dress or outfit is “mono!”
4. Ser la leche: This expression can mean that something is really amazing or awful! Similar to the American expression “That’s sick!” used to refer to something that can be terrible and wonderful depending on how you view it.
Leche appears in so many Spanish expressions that there MUST be an obsession with milk. You can say that someone has “Mala leche” (bad milk) and can be said to refer to someone who is in a terrible mood or has terrible luck. My favourite “leche” expression is “a toda leche” or “at full milk” meaning that one is driving/travelling at full speed. Where it originates from… no idea.
5. Ser un(a) pijo/pija: A pijo is essentially a posh person. It defines the typical person who comes from a middle to upper-class background and men can be easily identified with their polo shirts emblazoned with a small Ralph Lauren/El Ganso/ Lacoste embroidered logo (insert appropriate brand here) and often wears colourful trousers, a defining feature is a leather bracelet (for men) or a bracelet with the Spanish flag.
A female pija usually harder to distinguish but are very well-presented, deeply fake-tanned and often armed with designer handbags. Pijo/a can also mean “bratty” or “spoilt” and is often used as an adjective for describing certain neighbourhoods like Salamanca, Goya etc.
It also is slang for the male sexual member for some Spanish speakers.
Here is an example of typical male pijo fashion (right):
6. Ir a tapear: If you’ve moved to Spain then you must be familiar with the concept of “tapas” and to “ir a tapear” is to go out and snack on various appetizers which could include olives, jamón serrano and various cheeses. Be aware that in most of Spain tapas is NOT FREE. You can find some free tapas in a few bars but mostly in the South, most famously in Granada.
7. Qué fuerte: “Fuerte” in English means “strong.” In colloquial Spanish, fuerte is a way of expressing surprise, awe or shock. Basically, the phrase means, “Wow!” and can be used either positively or negatively and is accompanied by a wrist shake demonstrated below:
8. Flipar: This expression is widely used in Spain. It means “to flip out” you can use it as an adjective “estoy flipao!” meaning that “I’m flipping out!” or you can say “te vas a flipar!” meaning “you’ll flip out about…”. It’s a way to describe awe or shock about something.
“Estoy flipando en colores!” is a colourful way of saying “I’m flipping out!!”
9. Chupa: This is slang for a jacket, you often hear the expression “chupa de cuero” instead of “chaqueta de cuero”.
10. Mazo: This adjective is to express great quantities of something and is used commonly instead of “mucho”. For example “estoy mazo cansad@” meaning “I’m extremely tired”
11.. Mini: In Madrid a mini is a plastic cup of 750 ml. Not mini at all!
12. Pasarlo pipa: Means to have a good time. Pipas are the favourites of madrileños, you can see their seeds everywhere all over the pavement. You can say “me lo he pasado pipa” when you’ve had a great night out.
13. Molar: Saying “chulo” to express that something is cool is so passe! In Madrid, they use the word “mola”, i.e “me mola mucho esa pelicula”.
14. Movida: A complicated problem. For example: “Se han fundido los semáforos de la Castellana, ¡qué movida!”.
15. Ir a su bola: When someone “se va a su propia bola” it means that they’re going to do their own thing. In Spanish, it has a slightly negative connotation meaning that they haven’t considered what everyone wants to do and have made their own plans.
16. Me cae gordo: If you’ve started learning Spanish you may very well know that gordo means “fat.” In this expression, Me cae gordo means that someone rubs you up the wrong way and gives you a bad feeling.