This is the third of a multi-post series dealing with Colombian slang. As with any language, there are innumerable slangs that are invaluable for both language students as well as foreign travelers mingling with locals or itching to practice their language skills. In this third post, I’ll continue to focus on yet more phrases I think are both commonly used and useful for travelers, tourists, or expats in Colombia.
So, let’s get to the slang…
1. No pararle bolas a alguien o algo:
“No pararle bolas” is a very common expression heard and used all over Colombia that means something very simple: don’t pay attention to someone or something. For example, if you are upset about your classmate telling you that your Spanish is awful, even after 2 months of private classes, your close friend might tell you, “Eh, no le pares bolas”—meaning, “don’t pay attention to your friend” or “don’t let him/her get to you.” Or, let’s say you’re afraid of dogs, and, as you’re walking down the streets of Barranquilla, a street dog begins to follow you. An onlooker who sees your panicked look might say, “No le pares bolas a este perro. No te hace nada”—meaning, “don’t mind the dog; he won’t do anything to you.” As you can hopefully see from these examples, this is a very versatile phrase.
¡Pilas! is also a very common “command” that you will hear in Colombia. While the literal meaning of pilas is “batteries,” when someone uses it in the form of a command, it means “careful,” “pay attention,” or “watch out!” This is a word you might hear used between parents and their children. For instance, if a teenager is going out to a party with his/her friends, parents might say, “Pilas esta noche, ¿no?” Or, if you are out clubbing, you might get told “¡Pilas! if someone feels you are not paying attention to your personal belongings or surroundings. You might also here this phrase if you are walking on the street and there is an upcoming hole in the sidewalk—an onlooker might say “¡Pilas con el hueco!” to alert you.
3. Estar mamado/a
While not the most common of Colombian slang, you are bound to hear some form of this slang during your time in Colombia, especially in the interior departments of the country. “Estar mamado/a” means “to be tired,” but if it is followed by the Spanish preposition”de” (estar mamado/a de…) it means “to be tired of something or someone.” For example, if I just left work after a hard day of teaching and someone asks me “¿Cómo estás?” I might respond with “Uysh! Estoy mamada.” But, if I am complaining about the fact that my students didn’t do their homework, I might say, “Estoy mamada de que mis estudiantes no hagan sus tareas.” You could also use it to talk about the weather and start up a conversation—as lots of Brits like to do. You could say, “Estoy mamada de este sol. ¿Tú no?” (I am tired of this sun, aren’t you?). So, this is a useful slang to express being physically or mentally tired, being tired of something or someone, or simply as a conversation starter with a new friend or stranger!
Now, ¡Pilas with your Colombian slang!
Until next time,
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- Colombian Slang Part I (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Colombian Slang Part II (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- A Few Tips for Traveling in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Learning Spanish in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)