“Hey you, Black girl, can you pass the plate?”

My incredibly sweet Argentinian husband calls me “gordita” (chubby). At first, I cringed with the sound of it, imagining the words being said in public and witnessing the shock and disapproval on the faces of strangers at the sound of something so classically offensive.  “Hey gordita, let’s go downtown.” Why gordita of all words? I am not in the least bit fat!

Well, I’ve got news for you, if someone calls you “gordita” you should take it as a compliment. For the Argentinean masters of sobrenombres (nicknames), calling you chubby is a sign of endearment, but that isn’t all they will call you. 

“Che, negrita, me pasas el plato?” (Hey, black girl, can you pass me the plate?). “Wait, what?” First of all, the person asking me was a total stranger and already she was giving me a nickname, second of all, I’m not black, and third of all, even if I was, in the states, saying “hey white girl” or “hey black girl” to get someone’s attention isn’t exactly the most appropriate or polite of doing so. But in Argentina it is a sign of affection. Being politically incorrect in ways that would enrage most of the world, is totally acceptable and even appreciated here.

I’d call these “generic nicknames”- nicknames that are usually based on a person’s most distinctive feature. Maybe you have a friend who has some chub, they’ll likely be called “gordo” or “gordito,” and in no way is it supposed to be offensive. Anyone with darker skin is usually “negro” or “negrito.” Someone who looks Asian is “chino,” and if they have Arab features, “turco.” Does your friend have a big head? They might call him “cabeza” or “cabezon.” One of my good friends is super short, so we call her “petisa.” Another is skinny, so we call her “flaca.” Got a blonde friend? They’ll probably call her “rubia.”

They might also give you a more specific nickname, based on your personality or history. For example. my group of friends call me “tia.” Yes, they call me aunt. Not because I act like their aunt but because I used to live in Spain. In Spain, Spaniards use “tio/tia” just like we use “dude” in English. I’ve never once used the word “tia” in my Spanish vocabulary, but because I had lived in Spain, Tia became my nickname. It’s their way of identifying me.

Let’s take a closer look by examining the Argentinian soccer team.

  • Leonel Messi is known as “pulga” (flea) because of his small stature.
  • Angel DiMaria is known as “fideo” (noodle) because of his lanky figure.
  • Sergio Romero is known as “el chiquito” (shorty) because he’s really, really tall, hah!
  • And Gonza Higuain is known as “el pipita” (little pipe) because he’s the son of Jorge “el pipa” Higuain.

Now that you know this little fun fact, aren’t you at least a tiny bit anxious to see what your nickname will be? Come on! What are you waiting for! Sign up for Spanish classes and come experience the culture of beautiful Rosario, Argentina.

Written by Vanessa Galban

English as Foreign Language Teacher