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¿Qué Onda Vos? A Series on Speaking Guatemalan Spanish

“¿Qué onda vos?” is XelaWho’s a monthly guide to speaking Spanish Guatemalan style. This month’s topic: funny stuff my Guatemalan girlfriend says.

In past issues this space has been devoted to the slang used in Guatemala. Our source for much of the local figures of speech comes from the book ¿Qué onda vos?, a book that covers slang not only from Guatemala but from all of the Americas. While we’ll be using the book in the future, this month is dedicated to the interesting things my Guatemalan girlfriend says.

“A la gran puchica!” Or just “A la gran!” – When my girlfriend expresses surprise at something, one of these two is her most common response. Beware that the word puchica borders on vulgar because it is derived from a very common though vulgar 4-letter word that starts with p and ends in a. When chapines are really upset they will substitute that vulgar p-word (with heavy emphasis on the 1st syllable) for puchica.

“Puchica!” Or just “Puchis!” – She’ll use “puchica” either to express surprise (sort of like “oh my gosh”) or disagreement with something. Similar to the latter meaning of puchica, the word puchis expresses disagreement, too. For example, I might say, gosh, you are crabby today! To which she would reply puchis!

“Qué buena onda!” – This phrase is used to express a positive reaction. If I’d say “Oh, I bumped into my friend William today. I hadn’t seen him in so long,” she might reply with “qué buena onda!” along the lines of “oh, that’s wonderful!”

“Calidad!” Or “Qué calidad!” – My girlfriend uses word calidad in response to when a close friend asks how she is doing. Or, she’ll use either of the above phrases to express a sentiment like “Wow, that totally rocks!” or “That’s awesome!”

“Qué tuanis!” – This phrase is very similar to qué calidad, only a bit more informal.

“Sho!” – She uses this informal word mostly when her annoying sister is bugging the crap out of her. I would peg it somewhere between “Shut the hell up!” and “Shut the f— up!” on the vulgarity scale.

“Qué coche (masculine)/cocha (feminine)/cochino (masculine)/cochina (feminine)” – My chica uses this a lot when joking around informally, basically saying “You’re such a pig!” or “How disgusting!” when someone cracks a bad joke or does something gross.

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