Spend just a short time in Argentina, or even just around Argentinians, discussing their language and you are bound to hear the word lunfardo. Don't worry, you weren't asleep for that part of your Spanish class. Frankly, almost nobody outside of Argentina knows what it is either. Lunfardo began as a unique slang developed by criminals and a lower class segment of society. At some point it entered into the language in tango songs so most people associate it with tango.
Lunfardo versus Argentina Spanish slang
Nowadays, lunfardo has entered into common language used in the country. Words such as feca and garpar may be heard in an everyday, run-of-the-mill conversation. While not all of the words here are everyday words, you will better understand conversations if you are familiar with the them.
The Conjugation of Inverse Lunfardo
Interestingly in my discussions of lunfardo with Argentinians, there are a couple points that stand out. First, Argentinians will tell you that these words are created by taking the inverse of the original word. So for example, boludo becomes dolobu, garca comes from cagar and galán transforms into langa. These obviously follow the inverse rule. But then words like lompa (pantalón), garompa (poronga) and gomía (amigo) don't have an exact inverse relationship. I mean, I see where the root word and the lunfardo word are tied together, just not that they're inverses of each other. And yet, for Argentinian, these examples still follow the inverse rule.
Lunfardo and Argentine Slang Are NOT the Same
The other surprising item I run into is the confusion Argentinians unconsciously express between lunfardo and slang. In some instances you will hear a person claim that a certain word is lunfardo and not slang. Enough times to be more than a coincidence, in my explorations studying Argentine slang, I would be "corrected" about a word being lunfardo, and not slang. What I believe many Argentinians have missed is that at some point in the last century lunfardo became so prevalent in every day usage that it migrated into also being slang. So while all slang is not lunfardo, most lunfardo is now also slang. A bit on the opposite side of this is that when I mention an interest in Argentine slang people often "correct" me by saying, "Ah, you mean lunfardo." No, I mean slang. They are not interchangeable. (NOTE: This confusion is not limited to Argentinians. Information on the web often interchanges the words lunfardo and Argentine slang.)
Reverse Lunfardo: 25 Argentina Spanish Slang Words
Take a look at these words, with their meanings, and you'll be better prepared on your first trip to Argentina.
1. al dope: farting around, screwing off, not doing anything, wasting time, the inverse of al pedo
2. boncha: a kid or young person, the inverse of chabón
3. chabomba: a woman’s panties, the inverse of bombacha
4. de dorapa: standing up, inverse of parado
5. dolobu: to play dumb, to pretend one has not realized what is going on, the inverse of boludo
6. dorima: a woman’s husband, the inverse of marido
7. el quetejedi: the inverse of el que te dije, used when referring to someone you don’t want others to figure out who you’re talking about
8. feca: coffee, the inverse of café
9. garca: a swindler, a cheater, the inverse of cagar
10. garompa: a dick, the inverse of poronga
11. garpar: to pay, the inverse of pagar
12. gomía: friend, the inverse of amigo
13. jermu: a man’s wife, the inverse of mujer
14. jonca: a casket or coffin, the inverse cajón
15. joraca: inversion of carajo
16. langa: an attractive but self-centered man, the inverse of galán
17. los lompa: pants, inverse of pantalón
18. lorca: hot, heat, inverse of calor
19. rope: dog, the inverse of perro
20. telo: The inverse of the word hotel, but refers more specifically when used for sexual encounters. Rooms are generally rented by the hour, for short-term occupation.
21. toga: cat, the inverse of gato
22. tordo: a doctor, refers to a lawyer or medical doctor, inverse of doctor
23. trompa: boss, owner, inverse of patrón
24. yeca: experience, the inverse of calle, literally “street” as in street smarts
25. zapán: tummy, the inverse of panza
Please let me know in the comments what your opinions are of lunfardo versus Argentine slang. Remember, that these words and more are included in my book Speaking Argento: A Guide to Spanish from Argentina.
Check out these other Argentina Spanish Slang Word articles.