Archive for the ‘Tongue’s Burning! Me pica la lengua’ Category

La Chuleta

March 27, 2009

The word chuleta in Spanish has several meanings. In Spain besides meaning a meat “chop” it also means “cheat sheet,” or a person who is a flashy type, cool at doing certain things, or a showoff. This is probably why a cheat-sheet in Spain and Venezuela is called chuleta and not hoja de apuntes para hacer trampa, a more literal translation. The meaning of this word as cheat-sheet comes into the Diccionario de la Real Academia in the 1950s. In Chile chuleta also means a “sideburn”.

But what is really interesting is that cheat-sheet has so many different ways of being said in Spanish. Ours is una cultura picaresca pretty much in all 21 countries where Spanish is spoken (I include Puerto Rico because although it might not technically be a country, it most definitely feels like its own country).  Our culture is indeed so picaresque that I remember one Latin teacher I had in high school expected us to cheat at the tests. “You’re dumb not to cheat” he would say, “and dumber if you get caught,” he’d add. That is how I passed Latin in High School by the way.

I have made a list here of how to say cheat-sheet in all the Spanish speaking countries. I don’t think this list even exists in any dictionary, reference book or in the internet. To compile it, I consulted with numerous translators and professors in Spanish speaking countries:

Argentina: Machete. Bolivia: Chanchullo (Occidente); Copie (oriente). Chile: Torpedo. ColombiaComprimido, copialina, pastelCuba: Chivo. Costa Rica: Forro. Ecuador: Polla. El Salvador: Copia. Filipinas: Código. Guatemala: Chivo. Guinea Ecuatorial: Chuleta. España: Chuleta. Honduras: Chepie & Copia. México: Acordeón. Nicaragua: Copia. Panamá: Batería. Paraguay: Copiatín & Copiatini. Perú: Plagio. Puerto Rico: Droguita. República Dominicana: Chivo. Uruguay: Tren & Trencito. Venezuela: Chuleta.

I’ve included the Phillippines because the Tagalog and other Phillipino languages have been influenced by the Spanish language tremendously. In the Tagalog código is spelled kódigó. In Tagalog the K has replaced the Spanish c (when preceding the a, o and u only) and qu in most instances.

man sitting on a chair and writing on a tablet

Photo by Ivan Samkov on

My father tells me when he was a young student he would see very elaborate chuletas, some of them were rolled up with a rubber band so they could remain small and be scrolled easily during a test.

Machete in Argentina is a very important element of the Gaucho culture, the knife. Batería is probably used in Panamá because when you cheat during a test you are in a sense recharging your battery. Chepia in Honduras is from the Honduran verb chepear, which means to copy. Perhaps the Peruvian plagio is the most straight-forward and honest word. Polla in Ecuador is pronounced the same way as Poya, which in Spain is vulgar way of describing a man’s penis. Chivo means kid or goat. A Cuban interpreter told me that perhaps el chivo te berrea las respuestas (reveals the answers to you). Berrear also means to bellow, bawl, scream and shout. Chanchullo means an easy, profitable source of livelihood or a swindle.

close up of meal served in plate

Photo by Chevanon Photography on

One dish that I loved when I lived with my parents was chuletas de cordero lechal, which means “baby lamb-chops.” This is a dish that used to be de temporada (seasonal) in Spain but that now is available most of the year. When cooked at home they are usually fried at high temperatures until golden brown. They are best if fried in aceite de oliva para freir (not the virgin kind) and some ajo machacado (smashed garlic). If served in a park or in the country side they are usually cooked a la parrilla  (grilled/broiled) and accompanied only con ensalada y pan, since they are small and a normal serving can be as much as 10 or 15 chuletas per person.

Copyright © 2009 By Jorge L. Carbajosa

Jalapeños or chiles toreados

December 15, 2008

The word chile in Mexico means pepper, the country where it comes from. In Spain we call it pimiento and it was brought to us from Mexico or North America (Yes, for those of you who don’t know, Mexico is in North America). The word chile or chili comes from the Nahuatl language, a Native American language. Native Americans in Mexico for me are not Indians, I refer to them in the same way that I refer to natives here in the U.S. One time, when I was working as an interpreter, an immigration judge interrupted me in court when a Guatemalan individual was saying the word indígenas and I translated it as “natives”. His Honor disagreed. The natives over there should be called Indians, he enlightened me. Of course interpreters should not really defend themselves in court because the record speaks for itself. But I am often amused by the ridiculous labels that have been created to describe different people.

Many words in the Mexican Spanish dialect come from the Nahuatl also known as Nahua in Spanish, specially those that have the “ch” in them.

Chiles toreados are in a way lightly “browned” or lightly roasted peppers because they are quickly fried in a little oil, and turned. They are in a sense “toasted” in oil, because they are only slightly cooked. Sometimes you can see blisters on the jalapeños from the heat, but how much you cook them is your choice. In order for them to be considered toreados , however, they should not be cooked too much. Just like a toast, you usually don’t want to over toast it.

In Mexico the verb torear(to bullfight) means the same as in Spain. But it also means to “rub” the chile pepper in order to have the seeds release their juice and make the pepper hotter. So supposedly the jalapeño is hotter when you cook it up this way but there is also a Spanish verb torrar, which means to toast. This word also exists in Portuguese and Catalan, and perhaps it is more frequent in those languages because I’ve only heard someone use it in Spanish once or twice.

Torradas in Portuguese are toasts and I remember my grandmother in Portugal would toast bread on an iron skillet, the grilling kind, since she didn’t have a toaster and since Portuguese white bread isn’t really shaped to put in a toaster. Toasts also taste a lot better when they are made in this old fashioned way. So the torradas were made in a similar way as these jalapeños toreados are made, with a different type of skillet of course, and the jalapeños toreados are only lightly cooked, not quite toasted like a toast.

The word turrón, a special “nougat”  made out of almonds and honey, which looks a little like peanut brittle, and which comes from the Alicante province of Spain, also comes from the word torrar or its Catalonian or Valencian version of the word because the delicious mixture of honey, almonds and sugar were toasted up or baked after being mixed together.

Toreado and torrado are the past participles of the verbs torear and torrar respectively.  I understand why perhaps the verb torear was chosen to describe the action of rubbing the peppers, after all, you are fooling them or tricking them (into becoming hotter) which is another meaning of the verb torear.

But does putting the jalapeños in the skillet for a couple of minutes really make them hotter? I think that is debatable.  It really depends on the jalapeño itself. The more I think about the word toreado, the more it sounds very much like a  mispronunciation of torrado.

In any event, I was fortunate to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, this year and I enjoyed some of these wonderfully hot jalapeños toreados. I slice them up and eat them with meat, usually steak or chicken. This pepper is for the person who really likes hot food. Even my wife is hesitant to eat them prepared this way and I have always joked that she is capable of eating jalapeños like Spaniards eat olives.

Maybe I like hot food more than her after all.

Copyright © 2009 By Jorge L. Carbajosa