Ask a Mexican

The meaning of this curse word is all over the map

Dear Readers: Many of ustedes offered alternate meanings to the Mexican Spanish vulgarity pinche, beyond "cooking assistant" and "fucking in the adverbial sense."

From our Puerto Rican brothers: In Puerto Rico, pinche is simply the term used for a wooden clothespin. There is no negative connotation of the word on the island.

From a gabacho married to a Colombian chica: When my in-laws were in recently, my cuñada saw us drinking margaritas from margarita glasses. "Eso es muy pinche," she said, and our mouths dropped. But according to my mother-in-law, pinche in Colombia just means that one is putting on airs.

My pal Tigrillo, a proud Mexi grad of Princeton University, voiced something echoed by many other tejanos who wrote in: In south Texas, they use pinche to refer to people being tight with their money. Kind of weird, since so many folk in south Texas have roots in Monterrey, the supposed land of the codos. I think that meaning of pinche is Tex-Mex, and I have never heard it used similarly elsewhere.

Something for the Spanish-speaking readers of this column — Oh, my God, the Reconquista has even hit ¡Ask a Mexican!: Soy un nostálgico ex-neoyorquino que ahora vive en Chilangolandia. Leyendo la respuesta que diste al uso de pinche, pienso que no puedes decir "¡Pinche!" a secas, porque además de adverbio, es un adjetivo que necesita calificar a un nombre (adverbios se convierten en adjetivos, es mi punto). Tienes que decir, como le explicaste al gabacho: "¡Pinche gringo culero!" o "¡Pinche güey!" como decimos mucho aquí en Mexico City. También decimos mucho: "Eso está muy pinche," para determinar la mala calidad o mal gusto de cualquier cosa. ¿Y qué tal el superlativo pinchísimo? También se debe incluir como adjetivo, ¿no?: "¡Esa película estuvo pinchísima!" Es una gran palabra, y por supuesto, es muy buena traducción para fucking. Me gusta particularmente "Fucking bitch!" — pero no por misógino, sino porque suena tan bien como "¡Pinche puta!"

The final word goes to a gabacho living in Mexico: Actually, Mexican, here in Sinaloa, pinche is a pretty mild word, more like your (and mine for years) definition, "worthless." Commonly used by la gente educada y religiosa, pinche just doesn't have that connotation of "fucking" that it seems to have gained from you pinche wabs y Chicanos in the borderlands and in the U.S. (One qualifier to the Mexicanized gabacho: He lives in Sinaloa, a Pacific coastal state notorious for its tough, vulgar residents. Need proof? This is where most of Mexico's drugs lords originate — and now, I shut up.)

Dear Mexican: Have you seen the Simpsons figurines from Kid Robot? The Bumblebee Man is the hardest to get, therefore the most valuable of the bunch. I've seen it on eBay going for $75 when they cost seven bucks in the store. You think Matt Groening did this on purpose 'cause he really does love the Mexicans, or you think it was just a funny character and a funny coincidence?

Señora Ding Dong

Dear Wabette: Of course Groening loves Mexicans, and not just because he freely admits that the legendary Mexican superhero El Chapulín Colorado (The Red Grasshopper) inspired Bumblebee Man. As I argue in an essay included in my ¡Ask a Mexican! compilation, The Simpsons is the most-Latino show ever to appear on English-language television, one so wabby it makes The George Lopez Show seem as gabacho as Friends. Want a full explanation? Buy my book.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano