Colombian euphemism


6 years ago, Johnson, the column on language from The Economist published an article on how the Dutch understand the British, whose obscure euphemism could be hard to decipher for a foreigner. Having lived in Colombia for 5 years now, I thought I would celebrate my residency’s birthday (3 days ago!!!) by writing the Colombian version!

The following responses are uttered when an idea is raised e.g. go somewhere, do something:
What the Colombians say: ‘We’ll see.’
What the Colombians mean: ‘No way!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘You want to think about it and I will ask you again later.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Maybe..’
What the Colombians mean: ‘I don’t want to.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘Maybe. I will check gain the next day.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Later.’
What the Colombians mean: ‘What’s wrong with you to have such an idea?!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘He’s too busy to think about it now. Let me talk to him again in 4 hours.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Let me see.’
What the Colombians mean: ‘Are you crazy?!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘You want to think about it.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Sounds great!’
What the Colombians mean: [mind’s blank] (It’ll work if my grandma isn’t sick, if the daughter of my cousin’s girlfriend isn’t getting baptised, if it isn’t raining, if I can get a taxi.)
What the foreigners understood: ‘Love the idea!’

What the Colombians say: ‘We should meet up for lunch! It’s gonna be amazing!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘Bye!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘We should meet up for lunch! It’s gonna be amazing!’

What the Colombians say: ‘De una!’ (Yes! / Consider it a deal! / Done!)
What the Colombians mean: ‘The idea sounds good, although I haven’t really had a look at my calendar so I don’t know if I will be free.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘The dinner/coffee/lunch is confirmed.’

What the Colombians say: ‘See you soon!!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘Bye!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘See you soon!’

What the Colombians say: ‘Claro que si!’ (Of course!)
What the Colombians mean: ‘….er… What are we talking about here? I have no idea what I’m getting myself into..’
What the foreigners understood: ‘Deal!’

What the Colombians say: ‘Confirmed!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘I forgot to check my calendar and on the same weekend I have to go to a super wedding in Valledupar.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘Confirmed!’

What the Colombians say: ‘Let’s meet for dinner someday!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘Bye!’
What the foreigners understood: ‘Let’s meet for dinner someday!’

What the Colombians say: ‘See you at 4pm!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘See you at 4.30 / 5pm.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘See you at 4pm.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Let’s speak soon!!’
What the Colombians mean: ‘You’re weird. I think I understood 10% in our conversation of 30 minutes and I don’t want to talk to you again.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘Let’s speak soon!!’

The following comments are common when you’re about to have a social gathering with Colombians:
What the Colombians say: ‘I’m leaving my apartment.’
What the Colombians mean: ‘I’m taking a shower now, getting ready, and leaving my place in 1 hour.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘You’re leaving your apartment.’

What the Colombians say: ‘I’m on my way.’
What the Colombians mean: ‘I’m getting ready to leave, then I will drop off my wife at the other end of the city first, and then pop into the bank to cash a cheque.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘You’re going to arrive in 30 minutes (travel time).’

What the Colombians say: ‘Something came up.’ (30 minutes before your meeting)
What the Colombians mean: ‘Another friend of mine asked me to do something way cooler. Although I knew about this 2 weeks ago, I thought telling you this last minute sounds better as it sounds like it’s out of my control.’
What the foreigners understood: ‘You need to deal with an urgent matter.’

The following comments may be heard when actions are to be taken:
What the Colombians say: ‘Ahora.’ (e.g. I’m going to send this to you now.)
What the Colombians mean: ‘I’m going to finish a report, have lunch, then send some emails, then I will send it to you.’ (in 5 hours)
What the foreigners understood: ‘Now.’

What the Colombians say: ‘Ahorita.’ (e.g. Let me print this for you right now / immediately)
What the Colombians mean: ‘We need to first print the documents of this lady before you, then we need to wait for the computer to be available, then we can print yours.’ (in 20 minutes)
What the foreigners understood: ‘Right away.’

I hope this translation will come in handy when you need to deal with Colombians. Did I miss anything? Feel free to add yours here!

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