You wouldn’t think that a Spanish-speaking girl, watching a television program in Spanish would learn more Spanish. At the time I didn’t realize that watching El Chavo del 8 would expand my Spanish vocabulary and make me understand that there was regional or country differences within the same language. In this case I am talking about Mexican Spanish.
El Chavo del 8 was one of the most popular television family programs in Latin America. This Mexican sitcom was created by comedian Chespirito (real name Roberto Gómez Bolaños) on June 20th, 1971 for his own show (watch the very first episode here), and in 1973 became a separate program that continued until 1980. The proclaimed programa número uno de la televisión humorística (the number one comedy program in television) was staged in a Mexico City neighborhood or vecindad where kids get in trouble while adult neighbors deal with their daily issues.
El Chavo, la Chilindrina and Quico were kids that always appeared in each episode; sometimes Ñoño and la Popis joined the crowd. The adults of this comedy were Don Ramón, Doña Florinda, el Profesor Jirafales, el Señor Barriga, and la Bruja del 71, the solterona or old maid whose “real” name was Doña Cleotilde. Adults played all these characters, and it was incredible how they created the illusion that some of them were 8-year-old kids and others not.
In Puerto Rico, El Chavo del 8 was also well recognized. Those who were kids in the 70’s and 80’s received massive dosages of this show (and others by Chespirito such as El Chapulín Colorado) after school and on Saturday mornings. This program is still so popular that reruns still appear 40 years after it was created. So, last week I was watching a couple of episodes again, but now with the motive of appreciating how much non-Puerto Rican Spanish vocabulary I learned as a kid without knowing it.
The best Mexican Spanish slang example is the name of the program
Just the name of the program and lead character, El Chavo, is the best example I can use to illustrate those language differences. Chavo in Mexico is a young boy, but in Puerto Rico is a penny. The fact that El Chavo was an orphan, malnourished, poor kid that spent most of his time inside a barrel led me and my sister to believe that his name came from a penny, which is almost worthless. At the time we did not understand that a chavo in Mexico was simply a kid.
Another good example that you will see on the list is the word cola. I was able to identify at least three diverse meanings for this word in the show: glue, butt, and a line (as in waiting in line). None of those meanings exist in Puerto Rico.
EL Chavo del 8: Mexican Spanish vs Puerto Rican Spanish
Here is my list of 101 Mexican Spanish words and phrases I heard for the first time watching El Chavo del 8 paired with the equivalent Puerto Rican Spanish word commonly used in the island, when possible. This is how El Chavo del 8 would sound speaking Puerto Rican Spanish.
|Mexican Spanish Word from
El Chavo del Ocho
|Puerto Rican Spanish Equivalent
|a type of drink
|bote (de basura)
|bote (de cola)
|lata (de pega)
|brincar la cuerda
|galleta, bofetá, gaznatá
|culo for a person,
rabo for an animal
|(de mejores lugares
me han) corrido
|(de mejores lugares
me han) botado
|I have been thrown out
of better places
|to hold something
|écharle un ojo
|to be mad
|espérame un momentito
|wait a moment
|goma de mascar
|falta de respeto
|to clean up something
|machucar (los dedos)
|pinchar or pillar (los dedos)
|to pinch (your fingers)
|I give up
|patas de chichicuilote
|to talk (chit chat)
|se me chispoteó
|se me zafó, se me salió
|it slipped out, spilled the beans
|te doy mi palabra
|te lo juro
|torta (de jamón)
|sandwich (de jamón)
|vuelta de carnero
*Puerto Rico Spanish uses the generic term matemática.
**In Puerto Rico the term profesor is used at university level.
Same Mexican Spanish word, different Puerto Rican Spanish meaning
There are some words from the list above that are used in Puerto Rico, but the common meaning is different. Here is the comparison:
|Mexican Spanish meaning used in El Chavo as…
|Commonly used in Puerto Rico as…
|short vest or slow romantic music
|something low level, in poor taste
|glue, butt, line
|department (such as Department of State)
|contact lenses or camera lenses
|local food similar to tamales
|to glue something
|Mexican peso (coin)
|one US dollar (bill)
|professor at university level
|construction term for roof
16 famous and unforgettable phrases from El Chavo del 8
1. Se me chispoteó
Used by El Chavo when something slips out of his mouth that shouldn’t have.
2. Chusma, chusma, prr
Phrase used by Quico to Don Ramon. It is also accompanied by a push to Don Ramon at the end.
3. Es que no me tienen paciencia
Used by El Chavo and means “You’re just not patient enough with me”
4. Fue sin querer queriendo
Used by El Chavo and means “I did it on purpose, but I didn’t mean to”
5. No me simpatizas
Used by Quico and means “I don’t like you”
6. ¡Ya cállate, cállate, cállate que me desesperas!
Phrase used by Quico in a desperate way to shut up somebody that is speaking a lot and is interrupting something he is trying to do.
7. Te voy a romper todo lo que se llama cara
Used by Don Ramón as a threat and means “I will break everything called face”
8. ¡Me lleva el chanfle!
Expression used when everything goes wrong. In English equivalent could be “Damn!” and in Spanish ¡Me lleva el diablo!
9. Al cabo que ni quería
Phrase used by El Chavo when he wants to eat or do something and no one else is willing to give it to him. Means “I really didn’t want it”
10. Matanga dijo la changa
Expression used by La Chilindrina when she takes something from another.
11. ¡Fíjate, fíjate, fíjate, fíjate!
Used by La Chilindrina to give some credibility when she is making up a story
12. Bueno, pero no te enojes
Used by El Chavo when he is looking for forgiveness when someone is mad because of his misbehavior
13. ¡Sale y vale!
Used by Quico when he agrees and is excited to do something with another person (like playing)
14. ¡Ta, ta, ta, ta tá!
Angry expression of Profesor Jirafales. It is his way to calm down when the kids do something wrong; just like counting from 1 to 10.
15. Eso, eso, eso, eso
Used by El Chavo when someone clarifies what he is trying to express. Means “Yes, that’s right”
Surprise expression just like Wow!
Even though there were Mexican expressions and words used on the show, it was easy to follow. If you have not seen El Chavo del 8, I highly recommend you watch some episodes on YouTube if you can’t find it on your cable listing. There are also DVD collections available online, I know that you will love it!
Thanks, my big sis, Analiza, and her memory that once again helped me remember some of these words. Do you remember more words and phrases from El Chavo del 8?
Check out these other Mexican Spanish Slang Word articles.