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May 27, 2006

An Unabridged Glossary of Mexican Slang for Cooks

When I first started in this kitchen, staffed by all Latinos except for me and another guy, I had just spent the last few months in Asia, trying to learn enough of six different languages to get around and get by. I had taken 2 years of Spanish in high school, but that was many years ago. My Spanish was rusty, to say the least.

A few are fluent in English, but many of the guys speak quite decent broken English, with a strong accent. Between that, the noise of the kitchen, and my terrible hearing, it has sometimes been a struggle to understand what is being said to me, even in English.

But then there's a whole level of discussion that was taking place about me, often right near me. As I had never learned to cuss in Spanish, I was at a complete loss. But most of it is just the culture of ball-busting, rather than actual insults. As an aid for those who might be in a similar situation, what follows is a survival guide to Mexican slang mixed in with key kitchen words that I'll continue to add to as I learn more words. I don't claim to know the definitive meanings of these phrases, just how I hear them used.

Another good reference is www.insultmonger.com's Mexican Spanish page, although there's a lot of stuff on there that I haven't heard - maybe they have included regional slang or something. [Also, Wikipedia's List of Chicano Caló words and expressions and daveamason.com's audio Spanish lesson]

A lot of of it is crude and rude, locker room-type language, so if you are offended by that sort of thing, don't read further. If I have any of the definitions or spellings wrong, please feel free to comment and correct me.

Simple Spanish pronounciation guidelines - use short vowel sounds. H is silent at the beginning of a word. J is said like H in English. Double L is a Y sound, like pollo is pronounced poh - yoh. Roll your R's. Double R means to trill the R harder. e.g. chee cha rrrron es (pork rinds or see below). Nouns can be either masculine (usually ends with o) or feminine (usually ends with a), and adjectives should be changed to agree. e.g. un chico borracho, una chica borracha

?a ver cuando? - literally, when will I see it? Used to harrass someone when waiting for a component or a dish from them

abajo - located down low

abrelatas - can opener

acido or agrio - acidic, sour or tart

afilar - the verb to sharpen, like a knife

afiloso - adjective for sharp

aguado - adjective for a thin, watery texture. Opposite of espeso

al dentro - inside. Opposite of afuera, meaning outside

algunas veces - sometimes

almejas - pronounced al may hass - clams

almuerzo - lunch

amargo - bitter

amarillo - the color yellow, but can also refer to cheddar cheese (queso amarillo)

aprender - the verb, to learn. See enseñar

arriba - located up high.

asokao - busy, in the weeds

atras - behind - called out as a warning when walking behind someone

basura - trash

becerra - veal. Also, ternero or ternera

bien cocinado - well cooked, or well done, as a steak

biscocho or biscochito - literally cookie or little cookie, but used to mean chicks or pussy e.g. mucho biscocho esta noche means, there's a lot of pussy here tonight.

bisteca - steak

borracho - drunk

borrego - mutton. See cordeiro

briago - drunk

buenas - casual greeting, shortened from buenas tardes or buenas noches

cabra - female goat. Or sometimes chiva.

cabron - literally big goat, but it's used like asshole. Can also mean cuckold, but that seems less common.

cafe - coffee, or coffee colored - brown

caldo - soup, or stock. Caldo de pollo means chicken stock.

caliente - hot - as in high temperature - called out as a warning when carrying something hot

calmate - calm yourself, or calm down

camote - sweet potatoes (or garnet yams)

cangrejo - crab

capitalino - slur for someone from Mexico City. Use with caution.

carbon - charcoal

carbonero - a grill cook

carnal - pronounced kahrrr nahl - [it was explained to me that this is a slang used for someone that you are really tight with. Like blood brother or something. Deep meaning.]

carne - the word for meat. Many times, it will refer to beef, but usually will be further specified, e.g. carne de res (beef meat), or carne adovada (vinegar marinated pork)

Capulina - from what I gather, a Mexican comedian who is the butt of jokes. Whenever someone does something klutzy or careless, you may hear, "!Ay, Capulina!"

catracho or katracho - Honduran - not offensive

cayate means shut up. For emphasis, !cayate, puto! or "shut up, bitch!"

cebollas - onions

cena - dinner

chaka chaka - to have sex

chaparrito - little guy - There are quite a few Mexicans who are small in stature, like 5' tall or less who get called this

chaqueta - pronounced cha KEHT tah - same word as jacket, but means to jerk off. Not sure why, but I'm guessing that it sorta sounds like chaka chaka, and the suffix makes it like "little sex".

charola - sheet pan

chef - in Spanish, it's prounounced with the CH sound instead of the SH sound like in English or French

chicharrones - either tits (like chichis) or burnt (from pork rinds).

chilango or chilanga - a slur for a man or woman from the Mexico City area - insulting

chingar - the verb, to fuck

chinga tu madre - literally means, fuck your mother, but it's used like, "Oh, my God!" in English.

chingado - it's fucked. Or it's fucked up.

chingate - fuck you

chingadera - literally, fuckin' thing - used as a catch-all like da kine or whatchamacallit. ?Donde esta la chingadera? could mean where's the immersion blender, the can opener, the lighter - by context, obviously.

chingon - pronounced ching GOHN - bad ass. Literally, means big fuck or big fucker.

chinito - although not accurate, chino is often used for Asians in general. Chinito is the diminutive, literaly meaning little Asian, but often the connotation is not respectful. An English equivalent might be "little fuckin' Asian guy". Depends on context and how familiar you are with that person.

chivo - goat

chola - cock or dick

Chuy - pronounced like "chewy" - the more familiar nickname for people named Jesus. No one seems to know how Chuy is derived from Jesus. You may hear the affectionate mi Chuy [my Chuy] if they're buddies.

cocina - the kitchen. Or it can mean the cuisine of a region or country- la cocina mexicana

cocinero or cocinera - a cook

compa - homie, friend - short for compadre, I believe

con permiso - used when you need someone to move so you can get by

conejo - rabbit

cordeiro - lamb

cortado - cut, [from the verb cortar - like zanahorias cortadas means cut carrots] Or if referring to a dressing or mayonaise, it could mean a broken emulsion

cuadrados - dice or cubes or squares

cuadritos - small dice or cubes or squares

cuchara - spoon

cucharon - literally, big spoon, but usually means ladle

cuchillo - pronounced koo-chee-yo - knife. Called out as a warning when walking with a knife in the kitchen

culero - asshole

culo or culito - ass or little ass

cuñado - brother in law - usually not offensive, except if he's implying that he's banging your sister

derecho - to the right

desayuno - breakfast

descanso - rest, or day off

dulce - sweet

duro - hard texture, like raw potatoes. Opposite of suave

enfadoso - pain in the ass

enojado - mad or angry

enseñar - the verb, to teach

escuchar - the verb, to listen. Escuchame means, "listen to me."

espeso - adjective for a creamy or thick texture, like a sauce. Opposite of aguado.

la familia - literally, the family, but in the restaurant, usually refers to the meal prepared for the staff - the family meal. Also called comida - the meal.

feo or fea - ugly. Opposite of bonito or bonita

flaco or flaca - skinny guy or skinny girl

gabacho - white guy - not sure if this is purely descriptive or somewhat insulting like guero

gordo - fat guy or fatso

guero - pronounced weh row - white boy - offensive [sorta like cracker or honkey, I guess]

guardar - pronounced wahr dahr - to save, or to keep

guantes - pronounced wan tess - gloves

hacienda tortillas - literally "making tortillas," but can be used to refer to lesbians, because of the pat-pat motion of making tortillas by hand. [because there's no penetration]. Also, tortilleras - the tortilla makers. Both are rude expressions.

hermana - sister - I note this because a common insult is to comment on your sister, claiming to have been with her, meeting her later, she's staying at my house, etc.

horale or órale- pronounced Oo rrah ley - Mexican slang for what's up or right on or wow or I agree. Say it with enthusiasm! Often in the form of órale, pues, which is alright, then.

horno - pronounced OR noh - the oven

huey [or wey or güey] - pronounced "way" - used like dude, but actually means something like fool.

izquierda - pronounced izz key air dah - to the left

jabali - wild boar

la jefa - jefe in Spanish is leader, so I believe it would be correct to say either el jefe or la jefe. But using jefa sounds like heifer (cow), so it is a not so subtle insult [I'm wrong here, it's correct Spanish to say la jefa for a female leader - must have been a joke in a particular context]

juntos - together, or conjuntos - altogether

lavaplatos - a person who is a dishwasher

limpia - clean. Opposite of sucio.

limpiar - the verb, to clean

liquadora - blender

lo siento - literally, I feel it (bad), but means I'm sorry

llenar - pronounced yeh nar - to fill (like a container)

llevar - pronounced yeh var - to lift or carry

llorar - the verb, to cry. Him mucha llora, güey, or that guy cries a lot, dude.

lonche - lunch in Spanglish

lonchamos - we eat lunch in Spanglish

mandolina - the mandolin, a slicing tool, like the French all stainless one, or the plastic Japanese one

maquina - machine - usually means either the dish sanitizer (the dishwasher) or the blender base

marcar - the verb, to mark - as in to put grill marks on. e.g. Solo marcalos, por favor, or put grill marks only on those (don't cook them all the way), please.

marcador - marker, like a Sharpie. Regular pens are lapis or pluma

maricon - gay man

mariposa - literally butterfly, but also used for a gay man

medio or media - medium, like a size medium. See mita

mediano - describing a steak prepared medium

meseros - waitstaff, or servers

mezclar - the verb to mix. e.g. Mezclarlos, por favor, or Mix those, please.

mio or mios - my thing or things. "Es mio" means "It's mine." Or "Son mios" means "they are mine." Opposite of tuyo or suyo, below. Useful for defending your saute pans on the stove or ninth pan containers.

mirrey - pronounced mee RRRRAY ee - dude. [derived from mi rey, which means my king. It's like using the honorific "my lord" in English]

mita - when referring to half of a whole. ?Quieres una mita? means do you want half of this?

mojado or mojada - wet. Opposite of seco.

morena - African-American girl/woman

morro - boy, used like dude

mota - marijuana

nalgas - ass or buttocks. As a joke, when someone says gracias (thank you) to you, you can say "de nalgas" instead of the usual and correct "de nada (think nothing of it, or you're welcome)."

necesitar - the verb, to need. Yo necessito vino blanco means "I need white wine."

nice - like nice in English, but put after the noun, Spanish style, e.g. una chiquita NICE

no mames - literally means, "don't suck", but used like the English idiom, "Stop pulling my leg."

no me tocas, huey - pronounced no meh toe-kahss, way - don't touch me, dude.

no me tocas mi culo, huey - pronounced no meh toe-kahss, mee koo loh, way - don't touch my ass, dude.

occupado - busy

oaxaco - pronounced wa ha koh - slur for people from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaquito - pronounced wa ha key toe - literally, little Oaxacan (Oaxaca is a state in Mexico where many LA Mexicans originate), but similar to chinito, it has a disrespectful connotation. Good retort when necessary.

ojete - pronounced o HET eh - asshole

olla - pronounced OH-yah - pot (for cooking)

olvidar - to forget. Me olvido is I forgot. No te olvides is (you) don't forget.

oye - hey (to get someone's attention)

oveja - female sheep, ewe

oro - gold, or golden

paisa or paisano - countryman, compatriot, someone from the same country

pajaro - literally bird, but used to mean a man's genitals. Sometimes pajarito is used for female genitals

panzon - fatso

la parilla - the grill

pastelera - a female pastry cook

pato - duck

pavo - turkey or also guajolote

pedo - literally fart, but can mean drunk. Sorta like shitfaced, I guess. Also, ¿que pedo? or what's your problem? Rude phrasing.

pepino - cucumbers, or pickles

pedazo - a slap from someone's cock. [Literally, it means a piece, but it was always accompanied by a twist of the hips to demonstrate what he meant] e.g. "Si, pero a la next, un pinche pedazo, huey!" or "Yes, but the next time this happens, I'll slap you in the face with my cock, fool!" [or, you'll get a fucking piece of my dick, fool!] Uhhh, very insulting.

pico or picoso - spicy hot, as from chiles

piel - skin

pimienta - black pepper, as opposed to chili peppers

pinche - an amplifier, like fuckin' as an adverb. e.g. pinche cabron is about the same as fuckin' asshole. Or pinche Tadeo (my name from high school Spanish class, now revived). By context, it can also be just a throwaway expression for when someone does something characteristic of their personality - "Fuckin' Tad talks a bunch of smack."

piso - the floor. e.g. "Nunca pone nada en el piso del walk-in" means never put anything on the floor in the walk-in (room sized refrigerator).

plancha - the flattop griddle

pollo - chicken

preocupar - the verb, to worry. e.g. No te preocupes, huey means don't worry, dude. Or if you say it strongly, it can mean, none of your business, fool!

preparador - prep cook. Usually the next step up from a dishwasher. Once they've proven themselves as a dishwasher, they are taught how to clean, cut, and par-cook vegetables.

pulmon or pulmones - literally means lungs, but can also be an slur for gay

puñal - pronounced poon - yahl - slur for gay

puñado - slur for a gay man

puta madre - literally, whore mother, but used like "Oh, my God" in English

puto - for calling a man a pussy or a bitch. Used amongst friends, but can also be fighting words. Use with caution.

?que honda? - pronounced kay OHN-da - what's up

quemado - burnt

quemar - to burn. e.g. me quemo is I burned myself

quitar - the verb, to remove

rayador - grater

la raza - the race (of Mexicans), the Mexican people as a whole. Or, can mean the cooks or the kitchen staff, since the majority are Mexican or Latino

!relajate, huey! - pronounced ray LAH ha tey, way - relax yourself, dude!

repollo - cabbage

res - beef

rojo - literally, the color red - but used to describe a steak prepared rare

rosa - the color pink

salado - salty, or salted

sartenes - a saute pan or frying pan

seco or seca - dry, or dried. Opposite of mojado

serrote - slur for [correction: not Hondurans, actually for Salvadoreans]

servieta - dinner napkin

suave - soft texture, like braised meat. Opposite of duro.

sucio - dirty. Opposite of limpio

suyo or suyos - his or her thing or things. "?Son mios o tuyos?" - are these mine or yours? might prompt, "Son suyos" meaning his things (a third person's things).

tapadera - a lid, like for a container. Sometimes used in place of hat, as a joke. Todos (de ustedes) necesitan tapaderas could mean "All these containers need lids" or "Everyone needs a hat"

tenazas - tongs

tenedor - fork

tiempo - time or timer

tirar - the verb, to throw out

toalla - pronounced toe ah ya - towel

traiga - from traer, to bring. e.g. "por favor, traigame los tomates" means please bring me the tomatoes.

tranquilon - very calm, relaxed.

tuyo or tuyos - your (noun or plural nouns). "?Estos son tuyos?" means "Are these things yours?" They might respond, "Si, son mios" or, "yes, they are mine".

vaquita - literally, little female cow, or a fat girl

venado - venison

voltear - the verb, to turn over

wachale - watch out in Spanglish. Or sometimes, "Wacha your _____ [sauce, fish, etc]."

ya - already. e.g. "?ya terminas?" means you're finished already? Or Ya me voy, meaning I'm already leaving, equivalent to I'm outta here!.

zanahorias - carrots

Last edit March 7, 2010, 11:25pm.

May 25, 2006

New Category: Back of House

I just created a new category on the site called Back of House. This comes from the fact that the simplest segments of restaurants are the Front of the House (the dining room) and the Back of the House (the kitchen). The abbreviations for these are naturally enough, FOH and BOH, so it's common to say Back of House without the article "the." As in, "Fredro is a back of house guy - he doesn't do so well with customers."

There'll be a lot of overlap with the Cooking category, but I wanted to be able to separate the entries about restaurant kitchens from those about food and recipes. Some of the entries I have planned for this category are:
An Unabridged Glossary of Mexican Slang for Cooks
The How's and Why's of a Cook's Uniform
Knives, Spoons, and Gadgets - contents of my knife kit

Thanks for reading-

May 23, 2006


Part of growing up in Hawai`i, and Japan I suppose, is the concept of bachi. It's similar to the Western concept of jinx, but there's an additional connotation of "it's your fault, and you deserved it, you were talking big and it happened to you." And maybe a dash of karma payback, but on a very immediate timeframe. On the playground, maybe one kid was making fun of another kid for being clumsy, and he trips and falls down himself. The other kids take great joy in yelling, "Bachi!" Or maybe a child is being stubborn (Me? Never!), and he or she doesn't get to do something fun. "Bachi!" There's a social humilation aspect to it, and it's one of the ways that kids are kept in line - not just by parents, but by their peers as well.

So a few days after my last entry, I burned myself in the palm of my left hand, about the size of a quarter. This is the hand that I used to hold things while cutting them and to move pans around, so it was really inconvenient.


It's not a terrible picture, but if you don't want to see it, stop reading here.


What happened was I was rushing, and dropping fish filets into a frying pan with about a 1/2 inch of oil in it. To be safe, I should have flipped them away from me so the splash goes in the other direction. But of course, I was careless, and a good blob of oil got me in the palm. It hurt like heck. At least it was toward the end of the night.

For the next week or so, I had to work with bandages and gloves, which really sucks. When not at work, I would leave it uncovered to let it dry out. This picture is about day 5 or so, after the baby skin underneath was at least sealed, but still very tender.

I don't recommend it.