(If un-ladylike language upsets you, read no further…and honestly, maybe you’ll want to avoid my blog altogether since you never know when I might let one slip out.)
“P” is for “pissed off”
“P” is for “peleando”
“P” is for “pinche”
In “real life”, I don’t usually cuss in polite company but as a writer, I love words, and that includes the dirty ones.
Latin America has a colorful rainbow of cusses to choose from, words as diverse as the countries themselves. When I first started learning Spanish and picked up a book subtitled “the words your teacher won’t teach you”, I was like a kid in a candy store, picking and choosing the words I liked best and committing them to memory. I noticed that most of the words I chose had a (mx) symbol next to them, signifying that the word was of Mexican origin. Ah, Mexican vulgarisms! They were by far my favorites.
And so it came to be that “pinche” became my word of choice. I love the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way native speakers linger on the first syllable, and the creative stream of unpredictable language that follows. It looks so cute and harmless to native English-speaking eyes, a false cognate for “pinch”. I’ve heard that in Spain the word simply refers to a boy who works in the kitchen, and in other Latin American countries it can mean various other things which are equally mild. Really, there’s no way to know if someone will be offended by it, whether they be Mexican or not, but that doesn’t stop me from using it once in awhile. (Something I’ve discovered my husband fails to appreciate.)
The other day Carlos and I got into an argument, which isn’t really news in itself. The thing is, our arguments have a new dimension to them now that we have text messaging on our phones. This allows me to not answer his calls but continue fighting through my preferred method – writing. Chévere, no? Well, my husband doesn’t think so.
When we were finally face-to-face once again he said to me, “Stop texting me when we fight… And stop using the word pinche!”
“Hey, you can’t tell me what words to use. I’ll use pinche if I want to.”
“I hate that word. We’re not Mexican.”
“I’m not Salvadoran either, what’s your point?”
“Pinche is a Mexican word.”
“Y qué? I don’t tell you how to speak English. You can say ‘bloody hell’ like Harry Potter for all I care.”
In the end, I knew that this conversation simply couldn’t have a happy ending, and so I just walked away muttering, “… pinche tonterías…”