I stumbled upon the Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos(Dictionary of Costa Rican Slang) when researching materials available for our Costa Rican Spanish slang resource page. Since it was just published in November 2012, Jared decided that it should be a “must have book.” The book arrived directly from Costa Rica, carefully packed with a personalized thank you note from author Jose Antonio González Ugalde. These simple details indicated that the book I was holding in my hands was the result of hard work and dedication.
And surely it was! González agree to do an interview with Speaking Latino that turned out to be amazing. His story is full of ups and downs that go from a book being banned by the government to being published in record time.
The evolution of Gonzaléz’s Dictionary of Costa Rican Slang
When you read the new Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos (also known as Dictionary of Costa Rican Slang) what you will see is the result of 16 years of hard work. Author Jose Antonio González Ugalde followed a passion for learning “non-standard” expressions and in 1996 made a Spanish only compilation that he called Diccionario de palabras y expresiones coloquilales de Costa Rica de la década de los 90. This first work was never published, but set the basis for a simple booklet that González translated to English three years later.
Now, under a the title Diccionario de palabras y expresiones coloquiales de Costa Rica this bilingual Costa Rican Spanish slang dictionary became very popular in galleries among the Manuel Antonio beach in Puntarenas. “I did not have the intention or the economic resources to publish it,” said González who later quit his job in a hotel to make time to supply the demand of his photocopied dictionary that gave him enough money to buy a property on the coast.
After getting married, González moved from the coast to the Central Valley of Costa Rica and the work rested for 10 years. In 2009 he started updating the material once again adding new Costa Rican slang and deleting terms that were not used anymore. “I had a commitment with this work, because this work was not to be to stay tucked in a drawer. I had to do something with it and had to keep it alive,” he adds. So, in late 2012 a young visionary from Editorial Germinal pushed González to formally publish his Costa Rican Spanish slang dictionary in record time… only 15 days!
This is not a shy dictionary… vulgarisms are welcome!
González walked us through previous Costa Rican Spanish slang publications pointing out two of the most important dictionaries:
• The first one is the Diccionario de Costarriqueñismos originally published in 1920 by Carlos Gagini, who can be considered “the pioneer of Costa Rican slang.” In this work, Gagini only includes the colloquial language of the countrymen of that time leaving out all the offensive and vulgar terms.
• The second text is the one published in 1991 by Miguel Angel Quesada Pacheco titled the Nuevo diccionario de costarriqueñismos. In this dictionary, Quesada features many words previously covered by Gagini plus some daring terms.
Times have changed and González’s Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos is a great example because his dictionary is not shy at all. “Because I belong to another era, a different time and social circumstances, I express what I see, live and hear every day. I include the linguistic reality that we live without shyness,” he concludes.
A government law banned this publication
But getting away from the shyness of the previous Costa Rican Spanish slang publications placed an obstacle in the process of publishing his work. In the year 2000 the government agency in charge of the registry of the intellectual property in Costa Rica (Registro Nacional de la Propiedad Intelectual y Derechos Conexos) rejected his book because it was “contrary to morals and good customs” and “uses obscene and vulgar language.” You can read the full rejection letter in the author’s Facebook page TicoSlang.
González confesses that he was surprised by the rejection, but this situation encouraged him to continue writing about Costa Rican slang. He had to wait nine years to finally get his work registered, enough time to have a change of command in the government agency and the law repealed.
The approximately 750 words and phrases featured in this dictionary were the result of interviews made to about 60 groups of people from six of the seven Costa Rican provinces. Since González studies included English translation, he was able to create a fully bilingual book with definitions and examples in both languages. His wife, a native English speaker, gave him input with some American English expressions in the definitions. Both the print and Kindle versions are 2-column formatted, giving you a side-by-side definition that is easier to read.
Check out the six full color cartoon illustrations in the center of the book that are full of Costa Rican Spanish slang examples… they are really awesome!
Where to find the book
The Diccionario de Palabrotas y Coloquialismos Ticos is available in more than 20 stores in Costa Rica. For the updated list of stores, visit the Facebook TicoSlang page. For those who live in the United States, you can order the paperback or download the Kindle version on Amazon.
Read the second part of Jose Antonio González Ugalde interview 3 Things You Should Know About Costa Rican Spanish.
Check out these other Costa Rica Spanish Slang Dictionary articles.