The Many Meanings of “Berraco”
Of all the many Colombian slang terms explained on this blog, one of the trickier terms to get your head round is “berraco” (sometimes also spelt “verraco”). It is extremely easy to get confused with this one.
Technically, a “berraco” is a sort of pig, but if you hear this word in Colombia, it is almost certainly not being used to refer to the animal. But it is not always an easy matter to figure out what the word is being used to mean.
A Colombian could quite feasibly say “berraco” (or one its variants like berraquera, emberracarse or berracamente) in five consecutive sentences to mean five entirely different things. Trying to decipher these as a language learner is a sure fire way to get yourself confused. And fast.
To save you some of these headaches, I’ve produced a quick gringo survival guide to the most common contexts in which the word is heard. At least now you’ll have a fighting chance of understanding what is being said.
When talking about people, “ser berraco” is a high complimentary way to describe someone intelligent or exceptionally able. There is little better way to congratulate a Colombian on achieving something very difficult than saying: “¡Usted sí es un berraco!”. This is perhaps the equivalent of the English phrases: “Wow, you’re a genius!” or “You’re a total legend!” etc.
The personal quality which has led them to achieve such lofty heights may separately be referred to as “berraquera”. In this context, the phrase “¡Qué berraquera!” means something akin to “How amazingly clever of you!”.
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In other circumstances, describing someone as “berraco” can mean not that they are clever but that they are angry. This would be the case when the term is preceded by the verb “estar”.
So, the meaning of “Él está bien berraco hoy” would be something like “He’s really angry / in a foul mood today” (not “He is exceptionally able today”). In this same line, the verb “emberracarse” is a way of saying “to get angry”, while “estar emberracado/a” means “to be angry”.
When applied not to people, but instead to situations and tasks, “berraco” means “very difficult”. For example, “Uy esto está muy berraco hermano” is a way to say “Jesus man, this is really tough!”. Another popular phrase meaning roughly the same thing is “¡Qué cosa tan berraca!” (“What a difficult / tricky thing”).
For (Large) Quantities
Another use of “berraco”, and “berracamente”, is as synonyms for “a great deal” or “a large amount”. For example, a sign over a little shop might read: “Berracamente orgulloso de ser colombiano” (“Incredibly proud to be Colombian”). Alternatively, a friend preparing for an exam might say: “Me toca leer como un berraco” (“I’ve got to read an absolute ton”).
In this same vein, the uniquely Colombian idiomatic phrase “…más que un berraco” means “a great deal”, as in “Él estaba gritando más que un berraco” (“He was shouting a hell of a lot”). Finally, “ni por el berraco” means “(absolutely) no way” e.g. “¡Ni por el berraco voy a ir allá!” (“No way in hell I’m going there!”).
Given the numerous different meanings of this term, you will no doubt see why it is one of Colombian Spanish’s hardest terms (and this list is by no means exhaustive). Hearing it used frequently in context is probably the only way to understand its true versatility.
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Studying Spanish in Colombia – Your Questions Answered
I often receive messages from readers of this blog, covering various aspects of studying Spanish in Colombia: from logistical questions about visas, costs and the availability of Spanish schools in the country; right through to queries about how to use specific bits of slang or idiomatic expressions. I’m publishing here a selection of a few recent questions I’ve received about learning and studying Spanish in Colombia.
¿Mucha feria o qué?
August brings the famous “Feria de las Flores” (or “Flower Festival”) to the city of Medellin. While you will find a couple of events which are rather flower-heavy, most are not. Instead, music, celebration and fun take centre stage, all washed down with a healthy serving of “guaro” (or “aguardiente”), the favoured local tipple.