The fourth post in a series focused on Colombian slang, today’s post will focus on yet another set of words and phrases you will find useful and perhaps necessary to understand and use during your time in Colombia or for interaction with Colombians abroad.
Used mainly on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, nena is used to refer to females in a caring, sweet kind of way. You can use it with family members, especially younger female family members, you can use it with your girlfriend, you can use it with friends, and you can even use it in more formal settings to refer to waitresses and employees in stores you may enter. It is very similar to niña, but does not carry the implication of a “young girl,” as nena can be used even with older women. You may hear someone in a restaurant, for example, say, “Oye nena…” (Hey girl…) to get the waitress’ attention. Nene is used in the same contexts, but with males instead of females.
Another term used mainly on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, full does not necessarily have the same meaning as the English version of “full.” In Colombia Spanish, full means “very.” For example, if someone is very full after eating they might say, “Estoy full” (I am very full). Or, if someone thinks it is very hot outside, they might say, “Está haciendo full calor hoy” (It is very hot today). If you spend any time at all on the Caribbean Coast or with someone from that region of Colombia, you are sure to encounter this word at some point and could impress someone yourself by using it in conversation!
Yet another word used on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, barras refers to money, or in this case Colombian pesos. While in other parts of the country one might would say “two thousand pesos,” on the Caribbean Coast you may would hear someone say “dos mil barras” (two thousand “barras). It is very common, for example, in taxis. Taxi drivers on the Caribbean Coast will very frequently tell you what you owe them in barras rather than in pesos. Thus, while informal, it is a very common way of saying pesos on the Caribbean Coast—a way that would show you are in the “know” and are familiar with Coastal slang.
A phrase/question used in all of Colombia, ¿Qué más? literally means, “What else?” However, in reality it is used to mean much more. First of all, ¿Qué más? can be used as a greeting. For example, you might run into a friend on the street and say, “Hola, ¿Qué más?” to mean “Hey! What’s going on?” Or, you may call a friend and use it to say “What’s going on?” You could also use ¿Qué más? as a filler during a conversation. For instance, many Colombians will be carrying on a conversation and when they experience a moment of silence or find themselves with nothing left to say will say, “Y, ¿Qué más?” to try and get the other person to comment or say something to help the conversation continue developing. Wherever you may go in Colombia, ¿Qué más? is a very useful and common phrase.
I hope these phrases and terms come in handy!
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 http://www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- Colombian Slangs: Part III (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- 10 Ways to Describe Colombians (www.uncovercolombia.com)