top of page

Mom’s Dictionary 


“One proposes, and God disposes.” Mom always says that. Along with a list of phrases that only her, grandma, dad, and I understand. I have witnessed people just blank staring at her, poor things, they really don’t know what she means.


Mom is well mannered, respectable, fair, a master’s degree, beyond polite, refined, a lady. Never in 27 years have I heard her curse. Well, since the pandemic started, I actually have a few times, but it isn’t a big curse, it’s never “motherfucker holy fuckin crap,” it’s always a short low voice whispered “shit” or "goddammit," mortified, not proud. And she only says it when something really bad happened, like someone is about to die or might as well be dead. And it doesn’t sound right when it comes out of her mouth. She is a bad swearer. Such a terrible one that she can’t even say moron, she says “bolistristis” instead (number 10 of the list).


But the pandemic and everything that came with it -close friends passing away, family ill, grandma continuously in the hospital, complete uncertainty of health and life boosted by a messed up Administration- has indeed changed her. She has lost patience and she occasionally succumb to her sinful twin. When she picks up the phone and it’s another relative sick: "For fuck’s sake." When some crappy high-level politician says a big fat lie on TV, she calls him for what he is: a complete son of a bitch. This is all new to me, I even call her out when she says that. “Dad!! Did you just listen to what mom said?”. “Yeah, what happened to ‘This bolistristis…,” he wonders. “I’m tired,” she replies. And if she says that it’s because she is really fucking tired of everything being so fucking hard the whole time. She keeps pushing forward though, but the constant threat of a highly contagious disease that leads to pneumonia, intubation, and possible death three months after she escaped that same scenario takes a toll. That’s why I get so upset when someone doesn’t care about COVID-19, pneumonia breaks into the body of even the healthiest person and shuts it down. I’ve seen it. It was during her hospital recovery that I started writing down all her lines.


Don’t get me wrong, she has changed but she is still old fashioned when it comes to cursing and still wakes me up with kisses when I spend the night at home. I’m hearing her changing her voice tone as she was talking to a baby or a puppy: squeaky, sharp, sweet. “Good morning Mimi, hi Mimi, it’s so nice to have you home.” And then she leaves running as quickly as she got to my bed, as energized as a four-year-old toddler, leaving my pink walled bedroom smelling like flowers and vanilla. 


Mom runs, she runs everywhere in our Buenos Aires apartment, she runs to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to her office, to my room. I don’t know where she gets all that energy, and she jumps out of bed at 5am. By 8pm she is having her first nap on the couch in the living room while Netflix is on. By 10pm, her second, and sometimes she gets to a third by 12am, from which she wakes up exactly when the movie ends. "What happened? Is it over yet?"

Mom and I are soulmates, but when it comes to time management and language, we are polar opposites. 


Here are some words and phrases from Argentine Slang (Lunfardo) mom says:


  1. No tiene ni ton ni son. Translation: It has neither rhyme nor reason. What she means: it makes no sense. How I would say it: what the fuck.

  2. No veo turco en la neblina. Translation: I don’t see Turk in the haze. What she means: I don’t see nothing. How I would say it: I don’t see shit.

  3. No le pega pie con bola. Translation: Does not hit foot with ball. What she means: he/she does everything wrong. How I would say it: what a shithead.

  4. Hacelo como Dios manda. Translation: Do it as God commands. What she means: do it properly. How I would say it: stop fucking around.

  5. Te veo mal en la foto. Translation: I see you badly in the picture. What she means: things are looking pretty bad for you. How I would say it: you are fucked.

  6. Más viejo que Matusalén. Translation: Older than Methuselah. What she means: really really old. How I would say it: fucking old. 

  7. Chantapufi. Translation: literally it has none, it’s an awesome Argentinian slang word that turns out as something like fraud, deceitful, fibber. What she means: someone with shady, scammy intentions. How I would say it: someone that’s really gonna fuck you over.

  8. Rosca en el rancho. Translation: Thread in the ranch. What she means: a big fight. How I would say it: shit’s going down.  

  9. Te voy a dar un bife. Translation: I'm going to give you a steak. What she means: I’m gonna punch you. How I would say it: I’m gonna beat the crap out of you.

  10. Bolistristis. Translation: absolutely none, something my mom made up, it would turn out as something like dummy. What she means: dummy, in the sweetest possible way. How I would say it: asshole.

  11. Pucha digo: Translation: Argentinian slang for fiddlesticks. What she means: fiddlesticks! How I would say it: fuck.

  12. No pega ni con moco. Translation: Doesn’t stick even with mucus. What she means: it doesn’t work together. How I would say it: it looks like shit together.

  13. Macanitas. Translation: Argentinian slang word that people “Older than Methuselah” use, depending on the context it would turn out as something like little pranks or little things. What she means: little yummy food -she always says it when she brings pies, cakes, cookies, candy, or something really yummy. How I would say it: I wouldn’t know since I don’t pamper my family with yummy stuff. Shame on me.

  14. Justiniano Barragán. Translation: absolutely none, it’s a made-up dude’s name, mom and dad think it’s a character from a 1950’s book or show. I googled it, no clue. What she means: just on point, just right, just enough, unbelievingly close. How I would say it: shitting tight. 

  15. Agarrá tus petates. Translation: grab your duffel bags. What she means: grab your things. How I would say it: grab your shit. 

  16. Frescolari. Translation: another Argentinian slang word, something like “really chilly”. What she means: really cold. How I would say it: cold as fuck. 

  17. Así no marcha. Translation: It doesn’t march this way. What she means: this is not working. How I would say it: this shit is not working. 

  18. Saludo uno, saludo dos. Translation: Salute one, salute two. What she means: this is how she expresses someone died. Example: “So he had a heart attack and salute one, salute two.” How I would say it: he shitted fire, by means he fucking croaked.

  19. Su ruta. Translation: Your route. What she means: send someone away, take something away. How I would say it: get the fuck off.

Sometimes she even combines them: 


“Hacelo como Dios manda porque eso no pega ni con moco, sino te veo mal en la foto".


“Do it as God commands because that doesn’t even stick with mucus, otherwise I see you badly in the picture.”

Nailed it. 


20. Uno propone y Dios dispone. Translation: One proposes, and God disposes. What she means: “Let’s hope everything turns out as planned” (hopeful mom), or “I wanted it to be that way but seems like it’s not going to happen” (defeated mom). How I would say it: I hope the universe doesn’t fuck me over.


21.  Listo el pollo, pelada la gallina. Translation: Ready the chicken, peeled the hen. What she means: something’s ready. How I would say it: shit’s ready.


22.  La gran flauta. Translation: The big flute. What she means: Oh my God! (to express astonishment.) How I would say it: Holy shit.


23.  Te cazo al vuelo. Translation: I hunt you on the fly. What she means: I know you (in the context of you being sneaky). How I would say it: Don’t fucking lie to me.


24. Moco de pavo. Translation: Turkey’s mucus. What she means: when something is extremely dumb or irrelevant, in opposite to something major. Example: “They can’t pay rent, so they are being evicted, it’s not turkey’s mucus.” How I would say it: it's not something to fuck around, it's a fucking big deal.

25. Cosa de mandinga. Translation: Mandinga thing. Mandinga is another name for the devil in South America. What she means: It's a mystery (it's usually used when something weird happens. For example, when you can't find something you just had in hand. It's cosa de mandinga). How I would say it: The other day I lost one sock between my sheets and it just disappeared, it was nowhere to be found, but I did found myself actually fucking saying it.


26. No entiendo un corno. Translation: I don't understand a horn. What she means: I don’t understand a thing. How I would say it: I don’t fucking get it, I have no fucking clue, I don’t understand shit. 


27. Del tiempo del corchete. Translation: Of the time of the square bracket. What she means: something really old. How I would say it: so fucking old.


28. Tengo un nido de carancho. Translation: I have a caracara bird’s nest. What she means: My hair is messy. How I would say it: what the fuck is up with my hair today?


29. Puso sus buenos morlacos. Translation: he/she/they put their good argentine pesos. What she means: he/she/they invested a lot of money. How I would say it: he/she/they shit cash. Disclaimer: I always thought she said "burlacos."


30. ¿Para qué meternos en camisa de once varas? Translation: Why get into an eleven-rod shirt? I heard her saying that just today to a work colleague on the phone and my mind was like (????). What she means: first time I ask mom and she replies, “I don’t really know what it means but it’s like getting yourself in a situation where it’s going to be difficult to get out of later.” How I would say it: no idea, I still don’t get the connection here.

Mom desisted from trying to make me not swear years ago, somewhere around my early twenties. At first, she would be shocked and say “Lucia Paula! (When I curse, she calls me by my full name) No seas guaranga” (porteño slang for crass, boorish: Don’t be crass Lucia Paula!). Then she would kindly blame my dad, a blasphemer, an inspiration, but not such a big one like me: “That’s your daughter, it’s your fault!" And then she just stopped trying. Feels good being able to say what a dickhead next to mom and not hearing disclaimers. But then one day I don't get something and I’m like:

-  “Eso no tiene ni ton ni son.” FUCK. I’m using mom’s lines now.  


31. Tengo pocas pulgas. Translation: I have few fleas. What she means: I have no patience. How I would say it: I don’t wanna hear your shit, I don’t have time for your shit.


32. No tengo la más pálida idea. Translation: I don’t have the palest idea. What she means: I have no clue. How I would say it: I have no fucking idea, I don’t know a fuck.


33. La gran flauta que los hizo. Translation: The big flout that made them. What she means: We need some context for this. Imagine being at home in the dark at Christmas night because the electric company randomly cuts your power off (which happens often in Argentina). You’d be pissed off and say THE BIG FLOUT THAT MADE THEM! How I would say it: I’ll kill these motherfuckers.

34. Fulero. Translation: Argentinian slang word for something ugly. For example: That looks really fulero. What she means: That looks very ugly. How I would say it: That's fucking awful.

35. Tocate y fuga. Translation: Touch yourself and run away. What she means: she uses it to refer to someone who is insane, "he is tocate y fuga." How I would say it: He's fucking crazy.

36. Se me complicó el pastel. Translation: my cake got complicated. What she means: I'm in a situation that got complicated. How I would say it: I'm screwed.


37. No da puntada sin hilo. Translation: She/He does not stitch without thread. What she means: she or he is acting with a second intention in a calculated manner, in search of her or his own benefit or profit. How I would say it: That scammy little fucker.

38. No se puede hacer al tun tun. Translation: It cannot be done to tun tun. What she means: It cannot be done in a haphazard manner. How I would say it: Do shit properly.

To be continued.

bottom of page