Spanish For Gringos

Spanish For Gringos
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Spanish For Gringos

I suppose the first Spanish word I ever heard was gringo.

The second word I heard was pinche, which preceded gringo.

I wasn’t offended. I was told they were complimenting my frugality.

Later I found out that pinche had a deeper, more complex  meaning and so I was doubly complemented.

On some occasions when I heard gringo it was followed by colorful streams of invective, magical in cadence and rythmic in utterance.   Most of those words began with ch and are not shareable here, but I feel certain they were said con carino,  with affection.

As an Anglo Texan I think it is a good idea to master what I like to call,  Spanish for Gringos.  This is important as a means of fully enjoying the bicultural nature of Texas.  Why be left out of half of our state’s heritage?

In addition to being called gringos, we are also called bolillos, which is because we are the color of that beautiful dinner roll.  Another fine compliment.

Most gringos know the word cerveza.  That was the first word I learned in a bar.  Followed by bien fria.  Good and Cold.  Otra.  Another.  And after a few otras,  I needed this phrase, “Donde esta el bano?”   Just in time Spanish. Survival Spanish.   Learn it as you need it.

Spanish is a diminutive language.  Everything is little.  My wife will say, “Quieres huevito y cafecito?” Would you like a little egg and a little coffee?  ’ I will say yes and soon here come three scrambled  eggs in two large flour tortillas with chorizo sausage followed by a mug of coffee.

And I say what happened to the ITO?

Everything in Spanish is ito.   I know a guy named Carlos who is 300 pounds but his Mama still calls him Carlitos.

That is another thing gringos should know.  Spanish is a contradictory language.  Big is small and small is big.  Go to any construction site and you will find an anorexic looking man who is called Gordo. You will find a dark haired man called Blondie.  Newlyweds call each other vieja and viejo, old man and old lady.

 Consider the famous drink, the Margarita.  It is a drink that means little margaret.  But they bring

it in a massive glass that could hold the Arctic Sea.

Ahorita doesn’t mean NOW.  It means soon, which means possibly tomorrow, or next week.

Making sure the guest is well fed is a central value of the Hispanic household.  At eleven in the morning the Lady of the House will ask if you would like something to eat.  You will say, “I already had eggs and bacon and toast,” and she will  say, “Pero, necesita un pedacito de pastel.”  You need a little piece of cake.  “Sientate.”  And all you can do is surrender.

We gringos do not need a huge vocabulary or a perfect pronunciation.  We  just need to try.  You can sound like an East Texas Redneck as you say,  “Quiero una cervezita, bien fria, por favor,”  and the Hispanic world will open to you because you are trying.  They will say Salusita and welcome you with abrazotes (big hugs).  Unless they are tourists from Monterrey.  Then you are just a pinche gringo.

I’m W. F. Strong.  These are Stories from Texas.  Some of them are True.

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