I really have been known, at times, to moan at any friends of mine boring enough to dare to sit in the corner at a party, too afraid to give their hips a wiggle. So, it is with a heavy heart that I’ve come to a grave conclusion: those seats in the shadowy corners of every salsa bar in town have morphed into my very best friends.
My total inability to dance the salsa has paralysed me into a boring little party-goer and believe me, I am not proud of it. This shame reached new heights when I was watching on in awe one evening and caught sight of a blond, European-looking girl dancing the salsa! In reality, she was probably useless, but I was absolutely astounded! (Now I know what they mean when they talk about the importance of having role models who look like you). I rushed over as quickly as possible to ask her how she’d done it, and as she swished away, all I caught was a single word: Cali.
I am proud to announce that I have since made it to a real-life salsa class, here in Bogotá, and haven’t stopped raving about it! However, I know for sure that I still won’t be showing off my new and unimpressive moves just yet. Not, at least, until I really have to - and I think Cali might be the only place for it (although I am always open to ideas)!
I’ve compiled a couple of palabras caleñas here to get me in the salsa. I hear if you say them all one after the other and jump up and down a few times the Salsa Fairy treats you to a sense of rhythm…
Aletoso: Rough, bad-tempered. This is the first word on this list to have synonyms in about every other region I’ve covered and that’s surely got to say a lot about the buoyant nature of Colombians!
Abejorrearse: To kiss overly graphically in public. I’d refer to this in English as ‘P.D.A.’, or ‘Public Displays of Affection’, though now I’ve lived in Latin America I can’t believe I ever thought passion, let alone a need for any abbreviation even existed in the UK.
¡Ábrase!: “¡Vayase!” elsewhere, this means “Go away!”. I imagine this might be one I’ll find handy on the tiles, down in Cali.
Aguaelulo: In case anyone needs help here, this is made up of three separate words, ‘agua’ (water) ‘e/y’ (and) ‘lulo’ (a fruit) and refers to a sweet but ultimately lame-sounding phenomenon which is basically a sober, afternoon party. Then again, you could say the same about English Afternoon Tea, couldn’t you? (I would).
Asao: Basically, the caleño equivalent to being ‘up to your ears’ in work.
Biringo: What’s the bet that next week’s region will also have its own word for ‘naked’? Highly likely. Oh, maturity!
¡Bien o qué!: “What’s up?” or “Hey!”. Second favourite of the week! I promise to try and use this one.
Bobolitro: An ‘oaf’: ‘Bobo’ means ‘idiot’, so the funny ‘litro’ suffix gives the description a sense of scale. I can’t put my finger on why, but our awful Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, keeps springing to mind…
Bochinche o Embuste: A sneaky bit of gossip or rumour. Sometimes, you just can’t stop yourself.
Calidoso: used to describe someone as ‘cool’ - ironic considering it comes from ‘calido’, meaning ‘warm’.
Chimpa: Frankly, I’m struggling to understand what this really means or why it’s such an apparently useful phrase (advice welcome) but chimpa seems to refer to someone who is indiscreet in showing you something…
Cusumbosolo: Favourite word this week! This being such a long, drawn-out version of the word ‘sólo’ only makes the meaning – ‘lonely’ – seem even sadder and sweeter!
Cuajao o Viga: Big, muscly guy – the kind who thinks he’s impressing the whole gym when he is in fact making them feel repulsed.
Los pisos: Shoes – particularly the light, espadrille type worn in rural areas, here. Both practical and breezy? I’m a fan!
Stay tuned for next week’s equally confused instalment of my Colombianismos.
Especial para EL TIEMPO