Friday, February 6, 2009

Word of the Day: Machetazo

A machetazo is a blow landed with a machete. In rural areas of Costa Rica fights that break out in the local cantinas sometimes--but not often--involve machetes. A friend of mine who used to live in a remote part of Los Chiles once had to do a turnakit on a guy's arm because it was bleeding after being almost completely severed by a machetazo. Also, when I was living near Guatuso, a man was walking late at night through the town's center and killed--by machetazos--a kid who was allegedly among a group of teenagers who were harrassing the man (a Nicaraguan) with insulting (and racist/nationalist) language.

Keep in mind that these examples of violence in Costa Rica--a very peaceful country--are purely anecdotal and brought up simply to illustrate the meaning and relevance of the vocabulary. Also, these altercations almost always involve lots of alcohol and beligerence, so you don't have to worry about it if you're not looking for trouble.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Word of the Day: Vacilón

Vacilón is a very common Costa Rican word for 'fun'. The verb vacilar is also very common, which most often means 'to kid' (transitive as 'to kid someone' or intransitive as 'to kid around'). Sometimes vacilar is used in the context of a man or woman "playing" someone of the opposite sex. This might involve showing interest in someone for some purpose (often sex), without actually having true feelings or intentions.

In formal Spanish vacilar has the same meaning that 'to vacillate' does in English. If you try to convey this meaning with vacilar you will likely get confused looks from ticos.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Word of the Day: Paja

Paja is Spanish for 'straw', as in stalks of dried grain. Of more importance to this blog, paja is Costa Rican Spanish for 'fluff', as in words that lack substance and might be spoken for mere showmanship. In some cases 'bullshit' (pardon the vulgarity) might be a good translation.

This term paja is often used to describe the words of a politician who habla bonito (talks pretty) but lacks the moral fiber to follow through on his promises. "Pura paja", a bitter tico might say after listening to the President addressing the country via television (which he does on a regular schedule on the major networks).

This form of 'straw' should not be confused with the straw for drinking, which is pajilla.