If you’ve found yourself hooked on the first season of Narcos, then you’ll know that the second series is now upon us. Ahorita pues, it’s time to brush up on some Spanish so you know what the hell is going on! We’ve taken the opportunity to prepare you with some words and phrases used frequently in the series so you too can admire Don Pablo’s way with words.
If you’re one of the relatively few people who haven’t seen the most famous series ever made on the topic of Narcolombia, read on to unveil an area of lexicon which isn’t only useful for underworld deals, but has also permeated many a colloquial conversation. Be warned though: the following expressions aren’t for the faint of heart or the easily-offended.
1. Plata o plomo
Imagine yourself standing in front of an armed menace, pistol brandished, yelling plata o plomo at you. Your mind races. Plomo: it sounds so rounded, so soft, so innocent… Plata, on the other hand, is full of plosive consonants and sharp vowels. You mouth, “plomo,” and it’s your very last utterance. Heavy stuff.
But relax! Now that you know you should always choose plata (silver) over plomo (lead), you’re sure to live a long and prosperous life.
— “Ustedes eligen, ¿plata o plomo?”
If you’ve ever spent some time in a Spanish speaking country, there’s a good chance you’ll know the word billete, or ticket. In Colombia, and more specifically in the world of the narcos, un billete is a large amount of money, and un billetico is a really large amount of money.
— “Se ganó un billetico con esa vuelta.”
We warned you at the start of this article that you’d be learning some rather “colorful” Spanish today, but somehow I still feel hesitant to continue delving into the meanings. Too well brought up I guess. Anyway, gonorrea is one of the many graphic insults wielded by our favorite narcos in the eponymous series. It’s sonoro, creativo y simple, according to our Spanish editor, which you may have already translated as sonorous, creative and simple. Isn’t Spanish easy? You’ve probably even figured out the meaning of this insult… If not, have fun googling it!
4. Coma mierda
For anyone with a knowledge of Spanish, and particularly verb conjugations of the formal usted and informal tu forms of address, you’ll have recognized that “coma” is the polite imperative form of comer, which means to eat. It’s customary in many parts of Colombia to use the polite form of address among one another, even if your interlocutor is of the same age. Still, it cuts quite a contrast to the word which follows, right?
There’s no concise polite form of address in English — we don’t have a particular personal pronoun or verb conjugation. Indeed, English teachers often joke that we compensate for this by simply using more words. So maybe coma mierda can roughly be translated as please be so kind as to consume fecal matter. Maybe.
- “Señor Escobar, necesitamos renegociar, ¿no?”
- “Coma mierda. Coma. Mierda.”
And now for something which isn’t grievously offensive! Quite the opposite, in fact! M’ijo (or mijo) implies affection, tenderness, endearment, and is the contraction of mi and hijo, which translates as my son. There’s a lot of surrogate parenthood going on in Narcos, with m’ijo, m’ija and m’ijito exchanged fondly between los traficantes. So, now you know that if Pablo calls you “m’ijo,” you can relax… for now.
- “Le va a tocar caminar, m’ijo.”
This is how you call the people from Antioquía y del Eje Cafetero (Quindío, Risaralda y Caldas), which is the region in which Medellín is located. Medellín is the nerve center of the series and Pablo Escobar’s life. A paisa is a comrade, someone who shares your roots, a mate or a bro, or, as they also say in Colombia, un parce.
- “(Reportera) Pablo Escobar ha sido llamado el Robin Hood paisa.”
7. Gringo (hijoeputa)
You probably already know what a gringo is. It’s used in many Spanish-speaking countries to refer to foreigners, and chiefly to people from the US. As for the bracketed hijoeputa, well that’s a pretty negative spin to the noun it’s describing. As we’ve already learned, hijo means son, and the rest… let’s just say it has a very literal translation in English.
- “Voy a pagar medio millón por cada agente de la DEA que se quiebre. Gringos hijoeputas.”
El patrón is the boss, A.K.A. el jefe.
- “Pues nosotros hacemos lo que diga el patrón y listo.”
Un pendejo describes someone who’s cowardly, timid, and a little on the slow side, often characterized by a somewhat chaotic lifestyle. On the Narcos scale of insults, it’s arguably el más flojito — the weakest — but on the common scale of insults, it’s still closer to idiot or dumb-ass than it is to silly-billy or nincompoop.
- “No te hagas el pendejo. Entrégame a tu primo y te dejaré vivir.”
So, what’s the lesson to be learned here? Well, if you want to enhance your ability to offend and shock with mere words, then learn a foreign language. It’s astonishing how downright hurtful people can be, and indeed, how inured one becomes to the dirty underbelly of one’s own language.