Translation troubles: corn and innuen-dough

Why corny texts, dough and ‘calm’ can mean something different in Argentina

From behind-the-scenes conversations at the newsroom to classic translation troubles where the English translation just hits different, here are three words that tickled our linguistic funny bone recently at the Herald. You might not look at corn and dough the same way again.


Deciding what length of quote to use in a story is a bit of an art form but sometimes editors are suddenly faced with huge chunks of speech with those inverted commas holding on for dear life. We were discussing these choclos in Spanish in the newsroom and suddenly we thought “Hang on a second, why do we refer to hulking long texts as corn? Or big corns, choclazos?”

When looking this up, I realized first how unique the term choclo is for the vegetable, with other countries in the region saying elote or maíz (weird). Then, as is often the case, while the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española recognizes the ter

m as a popular Argentine way of describing something long and dense or just “a large quantity of something,” no particular origin is given. 

Either way, if you’re feeling self-conscious about sending a particularly long text message, you can follow up with a repentant Perdón por el choclazo. And maybe next time I see a particularly long quote, I’ll just comment “corn,” professional editor that I am. Just another food-related term to add to our Smörgåsbord of Argentine vocabulary


In Fer’s spooky Halloween feature about Racing Club and the legend of seven buried cats, one key character was what we in Spanish call a sereno, or the security guard who patrolled the stadium at night. As usual, there were suggestions aplenty but “calm-man” was rejected in favor of the more prosaic “night watchman.” However, it lacks the color of the Spanish term which comes from the old-time job of roaming the streets with a lantern, a role that originated in the early 18th century. There are a couple of reasons cited for the name, one being the watchman’s cry of Son las doce y todo sereno i.e. “It’s midnight and all is calm.” 

Not the case one harrowing 1967 night at Racing’s Presidente Perón Stadium, if the stories are to be believed.

You may also be interested in: The legend of Racing Club and the seven buried cats

Dame masa

Amid the myriad of colorful signs and incredible outfits at Pride this year, one leitmotif was the call to vote against the far-right in the upcoming run-off. So, many at the party-protest that is Argentine Pride wrote “Dame Massa” — as in, give me Sergio Massa, the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate. But as we mentioned in our coverage, this is wordplay using his name and a good dose of sexual innuendo because “darle masa” is, well, to have sex with someone. Presumably from the Spanish verb for kneading, amasar, the term is less commonly used to refer to hit someone although arguably the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Whatever your needs — or kneads — and wants.

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