In Latin America, the word often used to mean “cool, man!” is: “chevere!” But Latin American Spanish ain’t Spain-y Spanish, baby. Therefore, you have to do your research before you bandy about your old slang in a new country.
Here’s what happened when I asked my lovely host family in Barcelona, Spain to explain the Spain-y Spanish version of “cool, man!”
“Do you know what means ‘chulo’?” asked Anna.
“No, please explain,” I said.
“It is the man who is selling the prostitutes,” said Anna innocently.
“PIMP?!” I exclaimed.
“Maybe,” said Anna. “So the word for ‘cool’ in Spain is often: “Chulo!‘”
“Ok, wait,” I gasped, “are you telling me that the most common word for ‘Neat! Nice! Excellent!’ in Spain is… PIMP?”
“Yes,” said Anna. “You can also say ‘chulisimo,’ ‘una chulada,’ and so on. It has many exciting forms.”
“‘Super-Pimpy?’ ‘Pimpish?’ ‘Pimpesque?'” I choked out. “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” said Anna.
“So could I use this word in front of, say, a very conservative grandmother in a fluffy pink dress?”
“Definitely,” said Anna. “But you have to be careful when using it with a person, because with a person it can mean ‘too cool’ or stuck up.”
“Pimp?!” I hollered.
“It doesn’t mean like that when you say it with the right context and intonation,” said Anna confidently. “In Spain, you can also say ‘guay‘ to mean ‘cool.'”
“No, ‘guay,’ pronounced like ‘way,'” corrected Anna.
I chuckled, shook my head, and said, “Guay. Gracias por explicar. El espanol de Espana es muy chulo!“
Such are the joys of language.
Photo Note: All pictures in this article are from the lovely Monastery and Museum of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain, which has one of the largest surviving cloisters in all of Europe. It also, incidentally, was nearly empty of tourists, in calming contrast to the sights in Barcelona’s center.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!