Tag Archives: telenovela

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas: ¿Quién es Quién?

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!


Cultural Notes

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).

Using Univision Telenovela Transcripts and Readlang to Learn Spanish

Using Telenovela Transcripts and Readlang for Learning Spanish

Telenovela Transcripts Now Available at Univision.com

Univision usually includes Spanish subtitles for their telenovelas online, but I’ve recently noticed that they now also include the ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT of each episode below the video. This is great for copying and pasting into other programs (think of the corpus linguistics applications!), but it also means that you can use the Readlang add-on to quickly translate a word you don’t know by clicking on it – as I have done with the word rebaños in the screenshot. This is not possible with the subtitles, which you cannot click on or copy and paste elsewhere.

This example above is from episode 10 of El Hotel de los Secretos (The Hotel of Secrets), which you must check out. It’s a Mexican telenovela, but not like the stereotypical crazy telenovelas since it’s more like a period drama. It takes place at a fancy hotel in the Mexican countryside in 1908, and it’s actually an adaptation/remake of the Spanish drama series Gran Hotel (which has been called the Spanish Downton Abbey). I’m a tiny bit obsessed with it already.

El Hotel de los Secretos Telenovela on Univision

There are lots of mysteries and (obviously) secrets to figure out, and the plot advances rapidly so you won’t get bored waiting for the obvious to happen like with so many other telenovelas. Plus there will only be 80 episodes total so it won’t keep dragging on.

If you have access to the Univision videos online, you can watch most of the episodes for free. The latest five episodes are locked unless your cable provider allows you to log in, or you can subscribe to Hulu for all of the episodes. Another option is Univision’s new subscription app that lets you watch Univision live or anything shown within the past 72 hours.

The other major Spanish-language channel in the US, Telemundo, also provides videos of their telenovelas online, but so far they only offer subtitles in Spanish embedded in the videos.