I’ve recently been binge-watching the Telemundo telenovela ¿Quién es Quién? to learn more Mexican slang. Comedic telenovelas often use tons of informal expressions and slang words compared to the more dramatic ones, but the characters also talk really fast so you’ll most likely need access to the subtitles and the internet to look up words in order to really understand much. I use Wordreference.com and AsíHablamos.com to find definitions. Not all of the following words and phrases are considered slang, but they are words that I never learned from books and thought were useful, especially if they have other meanings in addition to the informal one.
¿Quién es Quién? has now finished its run on Telemundo, but you can watch the episodes online with Spanish subtitles, though they are probably geo-blocked to the US. Episodes 1-61 plus 91 are 45 minutes long, while episodes 62-90 are 90 minutes long. The best way to watch the episodes is through the Telemundo Now website or app, but I believe you need to log in with your cable subscriber. The full episodes are still available on Telemundo’s regular website that doesn’t require you to log in, but beware that episode 27 is actually episode 25 again, and all the 90 minute episodes have the parts out of order – all parts 2 and 3 should actually be the final two parts. I’m not sure when the videos will be removed from the regular site, but they should remain for some time on the Now site. Plus you can always skip around and read English language recaps at El Cohete to get caught up.
Mexican Slang Vocabulary from ¿Quién es Quién?
aguafiestas – spoilsport, party pooper, wet blanket
andar de parranda – to be out partying; go out on the town
apapachar – to spoil, indulge
babosada – nonsense; stupid thing
baboso – stupid, silly
bajeza – vile deed, nasty thing to do
berrinche – tantrum, fit
billullo – money
bola – lie, fib / ball, marble, scoop of ice cream
bote – jail / container / small boat / bounce / jackpot
bronca – fight, quarrel, scolding
burrada – nonsense / a lot of
callejón sin salida – dead-end; problem without a solution
canijo – untrustworthy / good at sports / weak, sickly, puny
carnal – brother, buddy, pal
chafa – lame, shoddy, cheap
chamba – job, work / fluke, pure chance
chambear – to work
chela – beer
chido – fantastic, cool
chorro – loads, tons / stream, jet
chueco – crooked, dodgy, illegal
chulo – pretty, good-looking
coscolino – playboy, womanizer
cuate – friend, buddy, mate
cursi – sickly sweet, corny
dar carpetazo – to put an end to
despachar – to finish off, bump off
dizque – so-called, supposed
encuerada – stripper; nude
entero – calm, collected, have it together
fanfarrón – show-off
feria – money, change, coins / fair, festival
flojo – slacker, deadbeat, good for nothing
fregada – mess, mix-up
fregar – to mess with, hurt, ruin
fulano – so-and-so, what’s-his-name
gacho – mean, nasty, cruel, unlucky, ugly
gandalla – thug, scoundrel, lowlife
gatada – sly trick
jalarse – to run, hurry, rush, dash
jarabe de pico – sweet talk, verbal persuasion
lana – money
lata – bother, nuisance, hassle / tin, can
matón – thug, brute, bully
méndigo – despicable, terrible, loathsome [not to be confused with mendigo – beggar, panhandler]
menso – stupid, silly, dumb
mono – cute, adorable / overalls / cravings / monkey [not be confused with moño – bow, ribbon / bun (in hair) / sweet bun (pastry)]
morra / morrita – girl
mujeriego – playboy, womanizer
neta – truth
padre – good, great
pelado – lowlife / peel, skin / bare, empty, bald
picaflor – playboy, womanizer
piropo – flirtatious remark
pleito – fight
raite – ride, lift (in car) [this is very American/Northern Mexican Spanish; you can also use aventón]
re- / rete- – very, a lot
ruca – old lady, spinster
tarado – idiot, fool, moron / crazy, loony
tarugada – nonsense, stupid thing
tarugo – stupid (blockhead as a noun)
tener la espina clavada – to be dying to do something
trago – drink, sip, gulp / hard time
trepadora – social climber
Reductions in Spanish Speech
‘tá instead of está
‘perate instead of esperate
pa’ instead of para
Estamos? instead of estamos de acuerdo?
Phrases and Expressions
¿a poco no? – isn’t it, don’t they, etc. [general tag question]; isn’t that right?
ahueca el ala – beat it; get out of here!
al grano – get to the point
hijole – gosh! wow! jeez!
me lleva – damn it!
me vale gorro – I don’t give a damn!
menos mal – just as well; lucky for me
ni hablar – let’s not even go there/talk about it
ni que ocho cuartos – my foot! yeah right!
o sea – I mean; in other words
vé tú a saber – who knows; your guess is as good as mine
yo qué sé – don’t ask me!
The emergency number 911 is pronounced nueve once.
When answering phone calls, most characters said si, bueno? or si, diga?
¿Quién es Quién? is set in Los Angeles, but was largely filmed in Miami in case you’re wondering why some house doors open outwards (a Florida building code for hurricane safety).
Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.