I learned Spanish in Spain where the word concha is used to describe the hard protective outer case of a mollusk or crustacean: a shell. In Donostia, San Sebastian, the main beach is called Playa de Concha. So, after living and learning Spanish there for six months, I felt I had a pretty clear understanding of the word. I was wrong. When I arrived to Rosario I heard people using this word in a variety of contexts combined with a plethora of varied vocabulary. There was something I was obviously missing. Had I misunderstood the meaning altogether? Well, yes and no.

Logically, from an English speaker’s perspective, it isn’t all that strange to hear a woman’s vagina being referred to as a shell so when I heard him yell, ¡la concha de tu madre! as he accidently hit his thumb with the hammer, I understood. Though the literal translation would be something like, “Your mother’s sea shell” the idea is more like “motherfucker”.

But then, after visiting the Rosario Central fútbol stadium, it took on a new meaning as I heard people screaming insults like ¡anda a la concha de tu madre! This would be something like “go back to your mother’s vagina” or “I wish you had never been born”. < careful here, the word for “field” is “cancha” which is a very very slight difference in pronunciation and will certainly make you the butt of many jokes. >

Finally, I was really confused after over hearing the following conversation:

Where are you living now?

In Iberlucea, a small town an hour or so outside of Rosario.

Fa, ¡en la concha de la lora vivís!

You live in the vagina of the parrot? What the what?

The colloquial meaning, however, is used to refer to something being in the middle of nowhere. In an almost just a vulgar English we might say, “In bum fucked Egypt.

And here is the really screwed up part. I have heard this identical phrase used with a different tone and context that would roughly mean “goddammit.”

You run out of gas, ¡la concha de la lora! You forget to pay the electric bill in the middle of Summer and you find yourself with no aircondition, ¡la concha de la lora! You decide not to take Spanish classes with Spanish in Rosario and then realize it was a HUGE mistake,“¡la concha de la lora!”

Written by Stephanie Cariker

Director at Spanish in Rosario