sergiogomez / Moderator / Jan 7, 2009
Puns are the staple of Mexican humor. People use them on a daily basis, and these puns, or albures, are almost always sexual jokes or disguised insults. Sometimes they consist of words with two (or more) meanings. Sometimes they are phrases whose meaning changes depending on where you divide the words. Since the words are run together in spoken Spanish, it’s up to you to decide where to divide the words–and where the joke is. This makes this kind of albur harder to understand, at least until you get the hang of it.
Simple puns often use the names of animals, food, or the name of an object that has another name inside it. One of the simplest and best-known albures is burro or donkey, which also means dummy or idiot. Burro jokes are endless and always popular. Chile is a code name for the male sexual organ, as are plátano, chorizo, and a host of other words. Cacahuate is a disguised form of caca.
Words that are a variation on the sound of another word are also commonly used. These are trickier; it might take a while to figure out that mi hermana is not a reference to one’s sister, but to mierda (shit). Miel (honey) is another variation on this same theme, making it a good idea to ask for miel de abeja (bee honey) when you go to the market. If you ask for miel, you’ll certainly be understood, but you might get a snigger from the shopkeeper. The connection between miel and mierda really isn’t that obscure: since r and l sound quite similar in Spanish, all you have to do is change mierda to mielda, drop a syllable, and there you have it! (Tip: remember that r and l can be interchangeable. This will not only improve your pronunciation, but also help you “decode” words you hear.)
Longer albures are a bit more complicated. For instance, the telero (cloth man) works in a cloth shop (telería) selling cloth (tela). What could be more logical? But wait. The telero works all day taking cloth down and putting cloth away: metiendo tela and sacando tela. Meter is to put up or put in. Sacar is to take out. Metiendo/tela–putting up cloth. Metiéndo/te/la–putting it in you. Sacando/tela–taking down cloth. Sacándo/te/la–taking it out of you. You all can imagine what it is. Who would have guessed that a simple story about a man working at a cloth shop could be sexual?
Most albures are set up similarly. For reference, whenever the pronoun la appears without explanation, it usually refers either to la verga (the crudest Spanish word for, um, pene) or la madre.
With that introduction, let the fun begin. Comments, or albures to dissect? Send them in. Your high school Spanish teacher will never know.
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Someone I was with recently said “voy a mi abolito” when excusing himself to go to the rest room. He said it was a play on saying “mear” which means to pee.
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Voy a mi arbolito. What it sounds like. “I’m going to my little tree.”
Voy a mearbolito. The word play.
Voy a mear. What it really means. “I’m going to pee/take a piss.”
It’s kind of a two-way play on words that sound the same and a trick of hiding a word within a word. Key to understanding the joke: e is often pronounced like i when it comes before a or o. It’s easier to say that way.
(This post was edited by sergiogomez on Jan 8, 2009, 5:34 PM)
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Albures, so that’s what it’s called ….hmmm. The analogies were humorous and what felt even more refreshing was the adult approach to explanation without having to maintain the pretension of proper decorum in giving it the crystal clear punch it needed.
Classic vs contemporary is something I am not quite up to speed on but your vivid piece reveals insights, I for one appreciate. And I’ll explain why.
A short story:
A month or so ago, I went to the Mexican consulate for documentation needed from their resident notorios. While in the waiting room filled with Mexicans waiting, intermittently a very young man and woman would emerge from behind their cubicles, and call on the next person needing services. The young lady (notoria) tending to the waiting room, in my view, was just too young, pretty and innocent looking to deal with ones legal state of affairs and/or ones documented future, but then again, its just me and my periodic demented view of life….Laugh
By the time I was called, I felt a deep sense of relief before I sat on the opposite side of this gorgeous creature. To my delight, she was the elixir, which instantly woke me up, I came alive, and we started speaking in Spanish! In our exchange, I had mentioned about the time at MC we were recognizing how beautiful the Mexican language can be in song and verse.
Her big dark eye’s swam in a pool of white milk, so clear with youth, that I was drowning in her gaze. Her eye’s would light up with such animation when her broad perfect toothed smile would broach a subjects favorable and to here liking. When I commented about the beauty of the Mexican language, she concurred and almost simultaneously with kind of a surprised smiling look, went on to say that yes, it is beautiful but it’s a language, which can also be extremely colorful when one wants to cast dispersion.
I didn’t expect her to say this and kind of caught me off-guard. I just looked and smiled in wonderment of why this was said. Olivia, today, the freshness of the young’s take on the Mexican language, which you are touching on, melded well with what this very nice young lady said, that she in Mexico is a lawyer and that she had just graduated from a prestigious university for lawyers out of Monterey. Then the ah-ha bulb lit up.
In essence, it sort of gives an up to date credence to the influence and freshness of what is currently occurring in youthful circles today. Classical or not, it is what it is and even though rap or gangster rap seethes my ears, I still see those who swirl, click and pop with the same passion of those who close their eye’s and almost swoon while enjoying a crescendo…… Smile
No es lo mismo el rio Mississipi que me hice pipi en el rio.
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I agree with your pretty young lady. The clean side of Spanish is clean, often poetic, and expressive in a way that English does not offer. The dirty side of Spanish is downright dirty and often funny, when you’re not trying to insult someone.
Reminds me of a popular retort. Imagine you’re with someone who gets a phone call, answers it, and talks for a few minutes. They hang up, and you want to know who called. So you ask (in Spanish), “Who was it?” (¿quién fue?) If they’re nice, they’ll tell you who it was. If they’re feeling impertinent, they might say, “Beto.” Beto is a man’s name, but in this case, it means “ve tú a saber.” You go figure it out, you find out. None of your business. Kind of like school-age youngsters who blow off their parents’ questions with “nunya,” none of your business. Only difference is, Mexicans never grow out of saying “nunya.”