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La Onda and Other Youthful Mexican Expressions Author(s): Marion F. Freeman Source: Hispania, Vol. 66, No.

2 (May, 1983), pp. 260-261 Published by: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Stable URL: Accessed: 30/12/2009 04:12
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Hispania 66 (May 1983)

uruguayo esta fastidiado por una conversacion comienza a ametrallar con el -ta. Se oye entonces algo muy curioso: ta tata tatatd ta. Es como se dijera: No me moleste mas.2 Esta expresi6n ha encontrado ultimamente un sustituto que parece querer regenerar la perdida material ocurrida y que ha comenzado a usarse con bastante frecuencia, aunque solo para indicar aprobacion y jamas molestia. Se trata de ahi va, que es la continuadora de ahi estacen uso desde hace varios afos. Sin embargo, en el momento actual el -ta se halla en pleno apogeo, sobre todo, como se ha dicho, entre las generaciones mas j6venes, y esta demostrando, desde hace varios anos, que no es un fenomeno temporario o pasajero sino estable y, sobre

todo, identificador de un grupo lingiistico hispanohablante.

NOTAS 'La forma de acuerdo siempre tuvo muy pocos usuarios en el Uruguay, tal vez porque se siente un poco forzada o snob. Se prefiere el lenguaje menos protocolar. 2Lo mas extraordinario de estos casos es que los hablantes no son conscientes de su proceder lingiuistico. Una gran profesora de espafol me seial6 en una oportunidad que lo que yo sostenia no era exacto y hasta lleg6 a ridiculizar mi aserto. A los tres minutos cay6 una persona con un papel para De firmar y ante una pregunta dijo: ta-tata-tata. inmediato le hice ver su conducta lingiiistica y no supo c6mo justificarse.



Colorado State University, Fort Collins Que onda(s)?: a question heard as frequently among young Mexicans as the more universal g Que tal? or the very Mexican , Que paso? But it does not stop there; la onda seems to have come to stay and forms the basis of a large number of expressions found in relaxed and easygoing conversations among members of the same peer group. Its particular identification with the younger generation is made patent by the name of the literary group-"la Onda"-formed by Jose Agustin and Gustavo Sainz, two of Mexico's more recent literary arrivals. In a general article on Mexico's young writers, Xorge del Campo clearly establishes a relation between the word onda and this group of young authors who wish to lead their country's literature in new directions.' No contemporary word can better reflect the attitudes of a group of "with it" literary rebels who reject the established norms and seek to do their own, innovative thing. During my three years of teaching in one of Monterrey Technological Institute's preparatory schools (La Prepa), in Guaymas, Sonora, I was exposed to and delighted by modern Mexican colloquial usage, and prided myself on learning to use it as naturally and creatively (at times!) as my students and colleagues. To what English slang word or idea, I asked myself repeatedly, does this onda correspond? Its most direct English translation, of course, is wave and there is a definite implication of the idea of wavelength in many of the expressions based on it. There seems to be, however, no single English word which covers all of its widespread uses. Examples of uses employing the word onda are:
iQue onda? What's the deal? What's going on? ;(Que) buena onda! (What a) good deal! Neat! i(Que) mala onda! (What a) bad deal! Me sac6 de onda. It blew my mind. It freaked me out. Por fin agarre la onda. I finally caught on. Fulano estd en onda. So-and-So is on the right track, on base, with it. Mangano estd fuera de onda. What's-his-name isn't with it, on the wrong track, out of it. Se me fue la onda. I forgot what I was saying, lost my train of thought.

Besides the ever present onda, other fairly new slang terms seem to have gained universal acceptance.2 Most frequent visitors to Mexico are familiar with such expressions of approval or disapproval as padre3 or suave* (neat, great) or desmadre (a very strong term, almost whispered by some, meaning disaster). But how many stayed long enough or became deeply enough involved in everyday activities to hear the words gacho (bad news, mala onda) or chilo (great, super) or to be called maestro or maestra by someone who is very hip and probably smokes mota? This last term of address will surely be uttered by prep school or university students and is bound to offend and horrify their elders. Therefore, it is usually reserved for con-

Teaching in Elementary Schools versations with those of one's own social circle. No problem, man is frequently rendered, No hay pedo, maestro any literal meaning of that term seemingly lost. This same age group will also refrain from using the words alivianar and alivianada in an even semiformal or polite conversation. They mean roughly the same as aliviar and alivio (and are in Larousse) but are somehow not considered correct or respectful. Another very frequently heard descriptive expression is a todo dar (great, fantastic). It functions in an utterance as an ordinary, one-word adjective: Pepe es a todo dar, iQue a todo dar! The school environment offers its own special colloquialisms, not all of them necessarily of the most recent origin. The Prepos (prep school students) may refer to themselves or be referred to by their teachers as raza or the typical Mexican penchant for the diminutive, racilla. They may tronar (flunk) a course or blame it on the instructor (me tron6). At test time the expressions machacar o aprender de ma-


chete (to cram) are often heard. Mexico's young authors are concerned, among other things, with their own generation. Many of the above words and phrases, not listed in the dictionaries, are found in their writings. This partial list may be helpful to their readers as well as to exchange students and others who come in contact with the Spanish of Mexico.
'Xorge del Campo, "La narrative joven de Mexico," Studies in Short Fiction, viii (Winter 1971), pp. 180-98. 21 would wonder if perhaps some of the expressions are found only in Sonora or northern Mexico if it were not for the fact that a university-level branch of Monterrey Tech is located in Guaymas. I thus came in contact with students and professors from all areas of the country. 3Padre is listed in Francisco J. Santamaria, Diccionario de mejicanismos (Mexico, 1974). Other words appearing in the Diccionario with the meaning indicated in my list will be marked with an asterisk.





Iowa State University Roosevelt Elementary School in Ames, Iowa has offered extracurricular foreign language classes in French, German, and Spanish through the past five years. The classes meet before school, at noon hour, or after school for forty-five minutes twice a week during two twelve week sessions. They are available to children from first through sixth grade on a tuition basis. Parent volunteers organize and administer the classes, collect the tuition, hire and pay the salaries of the teachers, and provide the teaching materials for the classes. The school supports the program by providing the meeting space. When parents of kindergarteners requested a Spanish class for their children the idea of an evening class for children and their parents developed since the Spanish teacher was interested in involving the
*Articles for this section may be sent to Prof. Leonor A. Larew, New York State University College, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454.

parents in the learning process and was unavailable for more daytime classes. A class was proposed which would meet one night a week for forty-five minutes during one session with the possibility of continuing a second session. The class came into existence when seven families signed up who were able to meet on the same night of the week. The basic objective for the class was to develop a positive attitude toward the learning of Spanish. Goals leading to this objective were: 1) to encourage enjoyment of the language; 2) to encourage good pronunciation; 3) to stimulate communication in the language; 4) to introduce the grammatical concepts of gender, the formation of the plural of nouns, and sentence word order; 5) to stimulate interest in Latin culture; 6) to provide a positive learning experience for children and parents together. The general procedure to be used in teaching the class was of concern for two reasons: