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Uruguayan Spanish (cana)

6/7/2011 by Susana Schultz

Every country has its own slang. In Uruguay and Argentina, we call it lunfardo. The original slang originated in Argentina among criminals back in the 19th century and with time it was adopted by people of very low class all over Uruguay and Argentina. Later, a lot of those words and phrases became part of the vernacular and they were added to the spoken Castilian.  By early 20th century, this slang was used all over as a colloquial Spanish. Some of those words even made it into the dictionary of the Real Academia Española.

In this section of The Strictly Spanish Blog we will introduce lunfardo words on an ongoing basis. We hope the readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing them.

The first word I am going to include is the word cana. Normally, cana has many meanings: gray hair, old person, in poetry it means white, in Cataluña it is a measurement. But in lunfardo, it means either “jail” or “the police.” This word is included in the RAE dictionary.

There is an expression I would like to introduce here that might create problems for English-speakers trying to understand Spanish and it is “sacarle a alguien canas verdes.” Literally, it means to give someone green gray hair. All it means is that this person has caused a lot of problems and worries.

Stay tuned for more words and phrases in upcoming weeks.

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