Translation troubles: contentious pipsqueaks

New year, new Argentine words and phrases from the Herald newsroom


If you want translation troubles, you can trust any news that has anything to do with the judiciary — we’ve mentioned the dreaded intervenido before. This week saw Milei’s government embroiled in more legal battles over the mega-decree, with a wave of protective writs and the fight over which court has jurisdiction. One of those courts, well, chambers: Cámara en lo Contencioso Administrativo Federal. 

We were lucky that our clear-eyed translator Agustín was the first to deal with this and left us a lifesaving message on Slack: “I am humbly defining Contencioso Administrativo as ‘Administrative Litigation’ in the glossary.” The more of us came face to face with the term, the more heartfelt and grateful replies that message got. Thank you, Agus!

Fingir demencia

This was a strong contender for our words and phrases of 2023 because it was so ubiquitous last year. The literal translation is “pretend like you have dementia” — pretty tough for anyone who has seen it up close. It’s straightforward: don’t face your problems, just pretend that they’re not happening. Argentina isn’t alone, with TikTok seeing the rise in “delulu” (from “delusional”) as a trend, although that term was adapted from K-pop fandom and becoming a sort of call to stop caring what others think. 

Previously belonging to the everyday realm — like not studying for finals — this idea of avoiding reality permeated political discourse, particularly on social media during and after the election cycle. Some have criticized this attitude but fingir demencia is now a staple, a tongue-in-cheek representation of the Argentine zeitgeist which makes feigning ignorance a luxurious national pastime (with a dose of ableism besides). I wonder why.


This is uncomplicated but worth it: Facundo called me piscuí and I thought it was just the cutest thing. It’s the lunfardo adaptation of “pipsqueak,” although in this case, it was more a sweet way of saying “silly” than “insignificant” — I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much otherwise. Saying it out loud is a delight and we should use it more often. Similarly, on reading a rhyming lunfardo dictionary I encountered the word güiquén, which comes from “weekend.” As a lover of English and Spanish, seeing such adorable adaptations is heartwarming. 

Buen güiquén, piscuis.

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