¡Ask a Mexican!
Dear Mexican: A friend recently asked me how to say “motherfucker” in Spanish. I was stumped — the closest thing I could think of was “puta madre,” which literally translates as “whore mother.” Is there a Mexican phrase that means “motherfucker”?
Dear Vulgar Gabacho: The closest Mexican Spanish equivalent to “motherfucker” is “Chinga tu madre” (“Go fuck your mother”), but that’s not the same. Truth is, there are no proper calques for motherfucker in Mexican Spanish. (A “calque” is a phrase translated word-for-word from one language to another, and not how you fix a leak.) But there are more than enough curses in Mexican Spanish using madre as their root. As a noun, madre can mean anything from “shit,” as in “No vale madre” (“It isn’t worth shit”) to “ass,” in which “Te voy a partir la madre” translates into “I’m going to split for you the mother” but really means “I’m going to kick your fucking ass.” Madre is also an adverb: “Te voy a dar un chingazo en la madre” translates to “I’m going to give you a fucking blow in the mother” but really means “I’m going to give you a fucking blow where it hurts the most.” You can also tell cabrones, “Vete a la madre,” which doesn’t mean “Go to the mother” but rather “Go to hell.” Add an “-ar” suffix to madre, and you have the verb madrear, which means “to fuck someone up.” For example, if you tell your mom “Te voy a madrear,” you’re not telling her that you’re going to mother her but are letting mami know that “I’m going to kick your fucking ass.” Shame on you.
Pero wait: There’s more. A mutation of madrear, “madrazo” denotes “harmful blow.” “Te voy a dar un madrazo” is “I’m going to give you a fucking punch.” “Hijo/a de tu madre” means “Son/daughter of your mother,” but it is a phrase used by parents to express disgust for their children; tell that to your mom, she’ll reward your biological insight with a madrazo to the face. You can even turn the most benign form of mother, mamá, into a crude insult: Take off the accent, and you’re left with mama, the present indicative form of mamar, which means “to suck.” And when you say that, you ain’t telling a baby how to get the milk out of the bottle.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we’ll make one up for you! And log on to laweekly.com to read the longer version of this week’s column.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.