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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: Bug Slang

By James Gray

So you’ve been to your Spanish classes and you know your subjunctive from your preterit. But next time you’re at the cantina you may notice that it is all USELESS. You’re drowning in a sea of slang and sayings. Someone calls you a huevón – do you buy them a drink or smack them in the face?

Relax. Here at XelaWho we’ve teamed up with the esteemed Juan Carlos Martínez, author of the most excellent ¿Qué onda vos? (i.e. What’s Up, Dude?), the definitive guide to Guatemalan slang and sayings. This handy little excerpt will help you fit in, stand out and generally make your vocabulary more…colorful. Topic of the month: Bug Slang!

Estar de malas pulgas or Tener malas pulgas.

LITERAL MEANING: To be/to have bad fleas.

ACTUAL MEANING: To be in a bad mood./To be bad-tempered.

¿Qué mosca te picó?

LITERAL MEANING: What fly bit you?

ACTUAL MEANING: What’s bugging/bothering you?

Por si las moscas/Por si las pulgas

LITERAL MEANING: In case of flies/fleas.

ACTUAL MEANING: To do something just in case.

Echar una araña

Example: Vos, voy a echar una araña.

LITERAL MEANING: Dude, I am going to throw a spider.

ACTUAL MEANING: Dude, I’m gonna go take a leak

Note: As with most vulgar slang, this is typically an ‘among the guys’ kind of phrase. Women will almost never say it.

And one final note on bug slang. You may hear the term for cockroach, i.e. la cucaracha (or more often la cuca) in a context other than a fleet-footed insect scuttling across your plate. It is also a slang (and pretty gentle) term for the female genitalia.  Women will use this one.

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