Sunday, August 24, 2008

Argentine Gestures

There are lots of things that I love about Buenos Aires. I love the city itself: the architecture, the green spaces, the huge monuments that are in the middle of the road, the public transportation, the fact that it is so dense and compact. Also, since I’m a runner, I love that there are four distinct seasons here; although the summers are hot and humid, they are nothing compared to what I’ve experienced in Texas. I love that there are lots of places to run here and that I can pretty much feel safe running by myself (most of the time (-:). I also love the food: the way it’s prepared, in general what is offered, and the fact that I can go to almost any restaurant and always find something that I like.

I could go on and on.

What I really want to tell you about is something that I think makes this place absolutely special. I mean, lots of places have great architecture, great food, and public transportation, right? So when I was thinking about what makes this place different, the first thing that came to my mind was the way that Argentines use lots of gestures while they are speaking. It’s something that I think I will probably think about for the rest of my life – something that I think adds a lot of color to the culture here. It’s something that is hard to explain in words (and in pictures), but I want to try to do it anyway.

Pretty much my first year here, every time I would be talking with someone and they would make one of these gestures, I would think to myself that they have got to be joking. In general, in the US, people don’t use as many gestures as they do here. It was just so different to me, so foreign, that I had a hard time taking it all in! Also, one of the gestures that people use here is considered extremely vulgar in the US (I’ll tell you which one later).

Here goes a list of my favorites.


“Careful!” “Watch out for…”

One would make the gesture while they are saying ¡Ojo! as opposed to the other gestures where you don’t say anything with them.

An example of how to use this would be the following. “If you cross over that street and continue going straight ahead you will get to the park, but ¡Ojo! (and the speaker actually stops and does the facial expression while saying it) even though the street is a one-way, the cars drive in both directions.” Imagine how I felt the first time I had someone do this while talking to me! I was like, Whoa! What was that?

¡Ni idea!

“I have no idea whatsoever.”

This is the gesture that is considered extremely vulgar in the US. When you do this while you are there it means f**k you or f**k off. I was in shock the first time I saw this one! I remember the first person that did this in front of me, my Spanish tutor. I remember thinking, This guy is freakin’nuts!

¿Qué te pasa?

“What’s your problem?” or “What’s up with that?”

The first time I saw this one, I was talking with a friend. She stopped talking, looked over to her side and did this gesture. I was like uhhh, what are you doing? Another time, I was in a taxi and another driver almost cut us off. The taxi driver did this to the other driver.

La posta

“The very best”

This one is done while talking about something. You put your hand in a certain position and then quickly flick your wrist – sometimes twice or three times hitting certain words in your sentence. The idea here is to emphasize that whatever it is you are talking about is the absolute best.

Here are some examples. I put a star where one might do the gesture.

Usain Bolt runs *really fast * (gesture here), I mean *really fast*. He set the world record in the 100m and the 200m.

*The cake* that my mother makes, they don’t offer anything like that here..

Voy a castigarte

“You are going to be in trouble”

Parents often do this gesture to kids to show them they are going to get it when they get home. Only one of these gestures has more effect than a thousand words.



This is one that can be done with or without saying something. For example, when I see my friend, Ruben, on the trail, he often does this gesture to show me that he thinks I am running fast. A different example would be when my friend Paula was talking to me about what they did during running class on Saturday morning, she said “We ran 8 strides of 100m, *really fast*” and did the gesture while she was talking.

I know that there are a lot more gestures that people do here. Let me know if there is one or two that you really like. Or, if you are from here, let me know if there is something that foreigners do that you like.

For me, the Argentine gestures and especially the people that make the gestures are part of the soul of this city.

Te mando besos,

1 comment:

tangocherie said...

Hola Jen!
I too love the gestures of other cultures; thank you for pointing out the Argentine ones.
However with some the pictures don't really depict the gesture and you don't quite describe it. Maybe a little more description for those who've never seen them?
Thanks and keep up the good work. I"m going to put your link on my blog.