Colombians do enjoy a good bit of exaggeration. Not seen a friend for a week or two? “I’ve not seen you in like a thousand years!” (“hace como mil años que no te veo”), a local will most probably decry.
Pick up a bargain in the sales, meanwhile, and our Colombian friends are just as likely to describe their purchase as “given away” (“regalado”) as they are to say that it was merely cheap.
It’s only natural then that exaggeration plays a central role in local humour. And nowhere more so than in the following bizarre, ridiculous and sometimes rude Colombian sayings and expressions that serve to spice up descriptions of most any everyday situation.
1. Más aburrido que mico en un bonsái
“More bored than a monkey in a bonsai tree”.
Without much room to swing about, these dwarf-sized trees probably can’t provide much in the way of entertainment for our simian cousins.
Alternative expressions include: “más aburrido que un caballo en un balcón” (“more bored than a horse on a balcony”) and “más aburrido que burro en canoa” (“more bored than a donkey in a canoe”).
2. Más rápido que peluquear un calvo
“Faster than giving a haircut to a bald guy” – not a task that’ll take you all day.
3. Más cansón que una tostada en un brasier
“More annoying than a slice of toast in your bra”.
A weird expression for sure, but no less true for it. Having a slice of toast inside your bra would, I’d imagine, be pretty irritating.
Another option: “más cansón que piña entre los calzoncillos” or “more annoying than a pineapple in your underwear”. Similarly uncomfortable you’d think.
4. Más largo que una semana sin carne
Colombia’s national diet doesn’t cater too well to vegetarians and this saying perhaps gives us an idea why. “Longer than a week without meat” is a local expression to describe something felt to be interminably dull.
5. Más mamado que chupo de guardería
“More ‘sucked’ than a pacifier in a nursery” – used for when you are completely exhausted or fed up with a particular situation.
This is because, while “mamar” is known internationally as the verb “to suck”, in Colombia “estar mamado” is a slang expression meaning “to be exhausted”.
For a less delicate version, try “más mamado que teta de puta” (“more ‘sucked’ than a whore’s boob”).
6. Más raro que un perro a cuadros
“Stranger than a checkered dog”.
This would indeed be a singular sight.
In a similar vein are the following “dichos”: “más raro que un japonés con rastas”, “stranger than a Japanese man with dreadlocks”, and “más raro que una sandía con huesos”, meaning “weirder than a watermelon with bones in it”.
7. Más feo que un carro por debajo
“Uglier than the underside of a car”.
Far from the height of praise.
8. Más tragado que calzoncillo de torero
“More ‘swallowed’ than a bullfighter’s underwear”.
A bit more explanation is required for this one. In Colombia, “estar tragado/a de alguien” means “to be really into someone” or “to have really fallen for someone”, while in standard Spanish “tragarse” is the verb “to swallow”.
The above sayings is one of several variations of an underwear motif which play on this double meaning. Alternative versions include: “más tragado que boxer de ciclista” (“more ‘swallowed’ than a cyclist’s boxer shorts”) and “más tragado que tanga de loca” (“more ‘swallowed’ than a crazy woman’s thong”).
All are used to describe someone who is head-over-heels in love.
9. Más cerrado que culo de muñeca
“More ‘closed’ than a doll’s ass”.
‘Closed’ here meaning that the person in question isn’t game for much interaction with others – a trait not found too much in Colombian culture and one that is apparently not overly appreciated by the locals.
Looking to turbo charge your Colombian Spanish?
Fast track from dull ‘textbook Spanish’ to sounding like a native with my Colombian Spanish Language Hacks email course.
Sign up now for 7 days of expert tips that will instantly transform your Spanish!
10. Más bravo que un tigre sin desayunar
“Angrier than a tiger that’s not had breakfast”.
11. Más prendido que arbolito de navidad
“More ‘lit up’ than a Christmas tree”: a saying meaning that someone is very drunk.
(“Prenderse” means both to “light up” and “to get tipsy”).
A variation on the same theme is “más prendido que pesebre” or “more ‘lit up’ than the nativity scene” – a traditional Colombian Christmas decoration which, of course, features plenty of lights.
12. Más contento que policía estrenando bolillo
“Happier than a policeman showing off a new truncheon”.
(The verb “estrenar” is a genius Spanish verb for “to wear or use something for the first time”.)
A different version of this phrase is the rather stranger: “más contento que marrano estrenando lazo”, or “happier than a pig with a new bowtie”.
13. Más pobre que guardaespaldas de gamín
“Poorer than a tramp’s bodyguard”.
14. Más perdido que un piojo en una rodilla / en una peluca
“More lost than a head louse on a knee / in a wig”.
Being ‘lost’ in this expression can mean that you physically don’t know where you are, you don’t understand something, or that you’ve not been in contact for a while.
(If you’ve not messaged a Colombian friend for a few days or weeks, for example, they might jokingly tell you off by saying “¡estás muy perdido/a!”, loosely meaning “where have you been hiding yourself of late?”.)
Alternative sayings include: “más perdido que Adán el día de la madre” (“more ‘lost’ than Adam [of Adam and Eve fame] on Mother’s Day”); “más perdido que Papá Noel en mayo” (“more ‘lost’ than Santa Claus in May”); and “más perdido que cachaco en playa” (“more ‘lost’ than someone from the country’s interior [especially Bogota] at the beach”).
15. Más sucio que calzón de minero
“Dirtier than a miner’s underwear”.
Not the most delicate of sayings, but one which definitely conjures up a vivid mental image (even if it is one you wish you could immediately forget).
16. Más amarrado que lapicero de banco
“More ‘tied down’ than a pen in a bank”: an expression used to describe the tight-fisted.
(As well as meaning “tied down”, “amarrado” is also a slang term for the miserly).
17. Más ordinario que un yogurt de yuca
Loosely, “less impressive than a yucca-flavoured yoghurt”.
Certainly doesn’t sound that tempting. The same goes for: “más ordinario que un helado de cebolla” (“less impressive than an onion-flavoured ice cream) and “más ordinario que fríjoles con champaña” (“less impressive than serving beans with champagne”).
18. Más blanco que rana platanera
“Whiter than an emerald-eyed tree frog”.
Unless you’re a zoological expert, I wouldn’t expect you to know what this specific frog looks like. Here’s one for reference:
Pretty niche expression, you might think. But as this little guy is native to South America, people are fortunately much more familiar with this particular amphibian’s style over there.
The saying is generally used to refer to someone’s skin tone. Most often heard when comparing tans (or lack thereof) after vacations.
19. Más peligroso que un caldo de anzuelos
“More dangerous than a fish-hook soup”.
“Caldo” is the name of a popular local broth that is undoubtedly best served without the hooks.
Become a Colombian Spanish Superhero!
Gain the superpowers of charm and charisma when speaking Spanish.
Sign up for the Colombian Spanish video course today to transform your language skills from ordinary to extraordinary.
English Words That Colombians Love
Speaking natural-sounding Spanish is all about learning how to use the exact same words that locals do, in the exact same contexts. Your teacher or textbook might tell you the correct way to speak, but on the streets of Bogota or Cali, many of these phrases just won’t cut it. Rather than obsessing over how to say things in a technically perfect way, my advice would be to embrace the local variations and imitate them as far as possible.
Colombian Slang Basics #4: Parche
Today’s slang word is “parche”; a term the dictionary would have you believe just means “patch”. In Colombia, it has an altogether more useful meaning too. While no exact English translation exists for Colombians slang use of “parche”, it roughly means: “a group of friends getting together to do something”.