Buenos Aires Street Art

Che, Ponete las Pilas!

know, speak 17 comments

Yes, this post is long overdue. Let’s switch things around this time and start off with some expressions for entertainment. And, since we’ve had a lot of demonstrations (peaceful pot banging mostly), strikes (the ongoing farmers strike), and disagreements (the decidedly inept government of the Kirchners), we’ll use that as the theme.

First off, our title. The ubiquitous che! Che can come at the beginning or the end of a sentence as a simple interjection, or to avoid saying a person’s name. It’s like calling them “mate” or “dude.” But it is often used as a filler, a meaningless interjection just thrown in there.

  1. che – hey, hey you, man, dude, mate.
    “Che, que esta pasando?”
    “Looks like there’s another demonstration.” “Man, Cristina has really dropped the ball.”
    “Te parece, che?”
  2. quilombo – a mess, chaos, commotion.
    “Che, que quilombo.”
    “No kidding. I’m heading out to the streets to bang pots with the protesters. Wanna come?”
    “Ni en pedo.”
  3. enquilombado – a complicated situation
    “Estamos enquilombados!”
    “You said it. The whole thing’s a complete mess.”
  4. quilombero(a) – a person who creates a mess
    “Ella es una quilombera total!”
    “Well, either she is or her husband is. Either way, it ain’t pretty.”
  5. piquetero(a) – protesters
    “Viste cuantos piqueteros habian?”
    “I saw them and heard them. Pots were banging all night!”
  6. ponerse las pilas – (literally, put in your batteries) get a move on, take charge
    “Can she solve the problem?”
    “Si, si se pone las pilas.”

There are some great sites covering Argentinean slang. Try the Argentine Spanish Slang Dictionary, El Castellano’s Dictionary, or Wally’s Dictionary. The last two also have sound files.

Pronunciation: ll and y

The second most important aspect of Argentine Spanish to learn before you get here is the pronunciation of the ll (as in calle) and y (as in yo). Typically, they are both pronounced like a y in other Spanish dialects.

Standard Pronunciation

  • calle -street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)

The pronunciation of both the ll and the y change depending on which part of the country the speaker is from. We’ll look at how the porteños pronounce them, since most people will be visiting Buenos Aires and this pronunciation is the one that confuses.

ll and y are both pronounced as “sh” (for example, shop). So, the word calle becomes “cashe” and yo becomes “sho.”

Argentinean Pronunciation

  • calle – street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)

Here’s a short dialog to get you used to it. Click here to download the mp3 file of this dialog and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation of ll and y.

  • A:     Te llame ayer.
  • B:     Yo tambien te llame, pero me tuve que ir a la calle Ayacucho.
  • A:     ¿Para que?
  • B:     Un juego de llaves.


  • A:     I called you yesterday.
  • B:     I called you too, but I had to go to Ayacucho Street.
  • A:     What for?
  • B:     A copy of my keys.

3 Comments To This Article… add one

    • Andrew

      July 29, 2010, 4:41 am Reply

      Que grande, che! Vivi en capital el anio pasado (me da fiaca poner los tildes!) y este blog me re pone nostalgico. Asi que gracias por las memorias. Yo diria que “out in the boondocks” (I can also think of some less euphemistic ones!) seria como “en la loma del orto”, jeje. Una cosa que te perdiste fue “tipo”. Todo el mundo (mis amigos al menos) lo dice. “Vamos al shopping tipo diez”, “Es una peli tipo accion, viste?”

      Y no se puede olvidar ‘boludo’! Great blog–actually writing a post on lunfardo for my own blog at the moment 🙂

    • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

      July 29, 2010, 1:33 pm Reply

      Excelente, Andrew! Gracias por escribirnos y juntar algunas cosas que no pusimos como “tipo.” Es verdad. Se escucha siempre! Espero leer tu blog sobre lunfardo. Cuantas cosas faltan todavia explicar aca.

    • mau

      March 8, 2009, 1:25 am Reply

      Nice blog…btw, “che” is not a spanish word. It belongs to the guaraní language, and means “My”, “Me” or “I”;in spanish “mi” or “mío”o “yo”.Also “che” is a mapuche word meaning “man”, in spanish “hombre”. Guaraní is spoken in northeast provinces of Argentina and is the second official language of Paraguay. Mapuche tribes still live in south Argentina and Chile.
      Quilombos were the towns erected in the middle of the brazilian jungle by the black slaves that managed to escape from plantations. Some quilombos lasted 50 years or more. And quilombo is an african word, look at this:http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmares_(quilombo)
      Best regards from Uruguay

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