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'Como cucaracha en baile de gallina': to feel like a fish out of water

Un recorrido por la jerga venezolana, de la mano de la inglesa Julia Larkin.

Julia My Dictionary
25 de abril 2018 , 05:52 p.m.

With little more than a month to go now until the next round of the presidential elections, you might be tiring of the same old wrinkles and balding heads. But as the candidates battled it out this morning for the millionth time, my ears were pricked.

You see, I consider Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016 to be a drastic turn for the worse for our already-embarrassing history. And in amongst all the headlines, there were certain key pawns at play. Principally: Syrian refugees and the hundreds of thousands of taxpaying European immigrants who’ve been powering the UK for centuries – my parents included.

As a result, I can’t help but compare the UK’s so-called ‘Syrian refugee crisis’ with Colombia’s equivalent – where almost one hundred times more documented migrants have entered Colombia from Venezuela. Then again, it is all made considerably more complex when Venezuela has so recently hosted so many Colombians.

So, as we smirk, nod or yell at the candidates gracing our screens over the next few weeks, let’s remember that real people are at stake here – not just facts, figures and fake news.

Anyway, here in Bogotá, I’ve been welcomed with open arms by my wonderful Venezuelan flatmates, who regularly take time out of their thirteen-hour days at their office jobs to clarify their very fast chatter to one very clueless inglesa… here are some phrases and words I’ve hurriedly noted down over the last few months. ¡Diviértete!

“Águila no caza mosca”:  “The eagle doesn’t catch the fly” is Venezuela’s “I’ve got bigger fish to fry”. Ironic, considering the prevalence of fried fish in Venezuelan food compared that of to ‘British cuisine’, regardless of its so-called ‘speciality’ in fish and chips.

Un bojote: A very Venezuelan one, apparently, this means “un montón”, or “lots”.

“Un cachicamo diciéndole a un morrocoy conchudo”: meaning “an armadillo calling a turtle ‘shelled’”, this is the Venezuelan version of “the pot calling the kettle ‘black’”! What an amusingly stark cultural contrast between our analogies! Better go and check if my tea’s ready…

“Chivo que se devuelve se desnuca”: “the goat that returns has his neck cut off”, meaning “keep going”, seems a bit sinister given the current Venezuelan migration situation. It also sounds like the title of Yorgos Lanthimos’ next blockbuster.

“Como cucaracha en baile de gallina”: I like to imagine that this phrase: “like a cockroach in a chicken dance” or “to feel like a fish out of water”, was invented by women who got bored of having men invade their grope-free dance circles.

“Cuando el río suena es porque piedras trae”:
 “when the river sounds, it's carrying stones” is a pretty long-winded way of telling someone to “watch out”, but I do like these superstitious ones!

Cuchi: this means “cute” in the “ooo, coo-chee-coo, what a cute baby!” kind of way. Isn’t it funny that the little specimens seem to trigger the same funny sounds out of all of us, worldwide?!

Sifrino/a: meaning “stuck-up” or “bratty”, I’m hoping I didn’t come across this one in reference to myself or my ‘first world’ tendencies…

Tarde piaste, pajarito: “you tweeted too late, birdie” means “sorry, too late” in Venezuela. It’s a good thing Twitter isn’t quite universal there, or they’d surely have problems.

“Te doy la mano y tu agarras todo el abrazo”: “give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile” – AKA: the attitude spearheaded by every intolerant (yet probably unaffected) inhabitant of a country facing a migration crisis, these days.

Stay tuned for next week’s equally confused instalment of my Colombianismos.


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