José Antonio González Ugalde have been tracking Costa Rican Spanish slang for more than a decade resulting in the publication of a bilingual Costa Rican Spanish slang dictionary Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos. He recently had an interesting chat with Speaking Latino where he identifies three characteristics about Costa Rican local Spanish that can be considered new to foreigners.
3 Things You Should Know About Costa Rican Spanish
1. Costa Rican Spanish influencers
English is the language that most influences Spanish, and Costa Rican Spanish is not the exception. But Nicaraguan northern neighbors have also been influencing Costa Rican vocabulary with some words or expressions. Due to proximity, 75% of all foreigners in Costa Rica are Nicas or Nicaraguans (Source: ElNuevoDiario.com.ni). “Since Nicaragua is close to Costa Rica, there are some times that it influences the Costa Rican informal language,” Gonzales said. He points out examples like “le voy a pegar un troncazo” as in “I am going to hit you” and “es que ella es una turca” for a prostitute.
2. Women are using “male” terms
Costa Rican women are stepping up and they are now using colloquial words that traditionally were used by men. González mentions this interesting social factor in the introduction of his book Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos:
“In the past, vulgar and off-color language was more commonly used by men in Costa Rica. However, this language has recently become part of the linguistic repertoire of Costa Rican women as well. It is very likely that this phenomenon is due to the incorporation of women in the work force, university life and the many different movements which have grown stronger over the last few years.”
In his conversation with Speaking Latino he elaborates on this matter explaining that, for example, in the late 80’s and beginning of the 90’s women didn’t use the word mae as for dude, man or buddy. Mae is not a vulgar world, it is just informal, but the women who dared to use this word by that time were considered low class and not feminine. González indicates that nowadays women use as many vulgar and offensive expressions as men. “I tried to reflect this in the book also. Both women and men has the same role in the examples… they express equally in the book.”
3. The Central Valley has a good representation of the Spanish slang of Costa Rica
Provinces that form the Costa Rican Central Valley -Cartago, Alajuela, Hereida and San José- are like a melting pot of all the Costa Rican Spanish slang and influence the rest of the country. González based his Costa Rican Spanish Slang dictionary on interviews made in six of the seven provinces, leaving out the province of Limón only, and he conclude that just in the Central Valley you will find slang terms used all over the country. The Central Valley “is the heart of the country and everything that is done or said here is transmitted to the rest of the country,” he adds.
Learn more about José Antonio González Ugalde and the process of creating the bilingual dictionary Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos in the article The Story of the Banned Costa Rica Spanish Slang Dictionary.
Check out these other Costa Rica Spanish Slang Word articles.