Ask a Mexican

The mother of all Mexican curse words

Dear Mexican: I'm a Spanish teacher, and I've been hearing my students say a phrase, Tiki tu madre, and I am unsure what it means (if it truly means anything, which they swear it does).

Maestra de Español

Dear Teacher: Chula, your students están chingando contigo — or, in the King's English, they're fucking with you. The only "tiki" that ever crosses a Mexican's mind is the former New York Giants running back or the Polynesian-themed decorative style. When your estudiantes say their phrase, they obviously mean "Chinga tu madre," which translates as "Go fuck your mother" and is Mexico's greatest contribution to the world's repository of curse words after pinche puto pendejo baboso. But don't go off giving your lil' scholars detention slips or bad grades — indeed, congratulate them on practicing grammatical sleight of mouth, what linguists call a cryptolect, a secret language used by a subgroup to communicate with each other while keeping outsiders clueless. Mexican society features many such cants, whether whistled languages, the caló argot used by pachucos during the 1940s, or whatever it is Carlos Mencia bellows on his slice of boob-tube beams.

Dear Mexican: I worked with and employed about a dozen Mexicans in my last job. We had many great discussions about Mexican culture and white culture. I was always puzzled by the relationship that these guys had with their "compadres." They relied totally upon these guys for information on subjects that they knew almost nothing about. I was always puzzled as to why they relied so heavily upon people who knew very little more than they did. I never saw this in any other culture. Is this something that is common in the Mexican culture, or was it unique to these guys?

No Buddy System for Me

Dear Gabacho: Any amateur anthropologist worth his weight in The Children of Sanchez copies found at used bookstores knows that the compadrazgo system in Mexican culture goes beyond serving as the godparent of a child for any number of Catholic sacraments. Traditionally, compadres took an active role in the upbringing of ahijados and served as a support system for the parents of their godchildren. It's a practice with roots in European Catholicism, but Mexico being Mexico, we expanded the term and concept to include any close friend in our extended family. What's so wrong with relying on others for help, No Buddy System? Frankly, Mexicans are way ahead of gabachos in this Great Recession, because while gabachos wait on president-elect Obama to bail them out, Mexicans easily plug in to their compadre system for everything: fresh produce, money, shelter, a hollowed-out Chevy Suburban to sneak in that last batch of cousins — everything.

Dear Mexican: What are the major characteristics of the Mexican sense of humor?

Yearning for Yucks

Dear Gabacho: Self-deprecation. Boobs. Puns. Double entendres. And midgets — many, many midgets.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano