This article is written by Lee Jamison, the author of the book Nicaraguan Spanish: Speak like a native! Take it away Lee…
7 Nicaraguan Slang Expressions About Money
Think you know Spanish? If so, put your money where your mouth is! I thought I knew Spanish too, when I first landed in Managua some 20 years ago. But then I had to learn the local lingo. Over the years I developed a portfolio of local words, idioms, and sayings that helped me fit in with the locals. I recently published that collection in my book Nicaraguan Spanish: Speak Like a Native! Here are seven terms that will give you a run for your money in Nicaraguan Spanish.
1. Alejandro en puño
This literally means “Alexander in fist,” but it refers to the quintessential miser, since a tight-fisted individual is unwilling to share with others. He may also be described as tacaño or pinche. This last term is informal, but not vulgar, as is the case in some Latin American countries.
No le pida nadie a Elías. ¡Ese Alejando en puño no le dará ni un chelín!
(Don’t ask Elías for anything. That miser won’t give you a dime!)
2. Coyol quebrado, coyol comido.
The coyol is a small local fruit. To eat one of them, you first have to break the skin. Since most Nicaraguans live on a limited income, they can only afford to buy the food for each day.
Mí tío está viviendo coyol quebrado, coyol comido.
(My uncle is living hand to mouth.)
Those living near the Mexico-U.S. border use this term to refer to those who lead illegal aliens into the United States. But in Nicaragua a coyote refers to men and some women who exchange dollars and córdobas, the local currency, on the streets.
No vayas al banco para cambiar esos dólares. Mejor búscate un coyote.
(Don’t go to the bank to change those dollars. Go find a money-changer in the street.)
4. De grano en grano, se llena la gallina el gran buche.
Yes, grain by grain the hen fills her big gizzard. The idea is that little by little, great things can be accomplished. A family may have difficulties making ends meet, but if they each keep saving a little bit each week, eventually they will be able to save up to buy something they want or need.
Guarda ese peso. Acordáte: De gran en grano, se llena la gallina el gran buche.
(Keep that peso. Remember: Every penny counts.)
5. Desvistió a Juan para vestir a Pedro.
This literally means: “They undressed Juan to dress Pedro.” In effect, it’s the equivalent of “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” to take away from someone to give to another. One official spoke of his efforts to distribute relief aid amongst those in diverse geographic areas as is seen below.
“‘No queremos desvestir a Pedro para vestir a Pablo,’ ejemplificó en alusión a que tanto la RAAN como los departamentos del Norte y el Occidente necesitan de recursos.”
(“‘We don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul,’ for example, in allusion to the RAAN [The North Atlantic Autonomous Region] as well as the northern and western departments, which also need resources.”)
6. El que tiene más galillo, traga más pinol.
Those who have bigger throats can gulp down more pinol, a typical Nicaraguan ground corn drink. The idea? The rich get richer. People tend to use their resources selfishly for their own good.
“Desgraciadamente estamos en un municipio donde el que tiene más galillo traga mas pinol.”
(“Unfortunately, we are in a town where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”)
Ever heard of the “baker’s dozen”? The ipegüe is essentially the same idea. The next time you go to the market and buy a dozen lemons or oranges, negotiate the price. Then, when they are finished packing them up, say: “Y ¿el ipegüe?” Your excellent Nicaraguan Spanish will bring a smile to the merchant’s face, and he will throw in number 13 for free!
Where to learn more Nicaraguan Spanish slang
A great source of Nicaraguan Spanish slang can be found in the comments posted online on newspapers such as laprensa.com.ni and elnuevodiario.com.ni. Or search for music from Carlos Mejía Godoy, a Nicaraguan folk singer. You’ll love his lyrics, which are laden with Nicaraguan Spanish. Finally, check out my blog, gringoguide200.com for additional resources.
Check out these other Nicaragua Spanish Slang Expressions articles.