Translation troubles: drink it with soda

Exploring Argentina’s linguistic foibles one confused conversation at a time

This week’s “translation troubles” feature a controversial campaign video, a healthy dose of a rare interview by football superstar Lionel Messi, and a quintessentially Argentine piece of advice that comes up surprisingly often. 


Criticisms poured in following a campaign video in which presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich said she would name a gigantic new prison complex after Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Security Minister Aníbal Fernández described it as a berretada, as an underhanded move, that the team translated as “a cheap trick.”

The word comes from berreta, a lunfardo word meaning adulterated, fake, or low quality. As with many of these terms, the origins are unclear: one account pins it to former President Tomás Berreta of Uruguay, who only lasted five months because he died of cancer. Less cruel, perhaps, is the apparent flood of bad-quality dupes of Italian Beretta guns. Yet another tells the story of a lunfardo family tree: that it comes from berretín, itself the linguistic offspring of beguén (whim, intense desire) and baratín (a cache). From that alleged genealogy, we can circle back to our original noun, berretada: a badly-made, often tasteless thing you probably wouldn’t want at a family gathering.

Miguel ‘Migue’ Granados

We’re just going with the name and surname here because chapeau (or chapó) to everyone who pitched in to translate the interview between Messi and Migue Granados last week. An informal affair, there were a lot of choice words that required some discussion before the translation made it to the subtitles of our Instagram video. 

Highlights that were possibly the low points of Agustín’s day included te pregunto de confianza, no de puterío and que la recontra chupen. The full translation of the first would be something like “I’m asking out of curiosity and in good faith, not out of a desire to stir the pot,” using prostitution (puterío) as a vulgar way of saying a free-for-all, making a mess of things. Not ideal.

You may also be interested in: Meet Migue Granados, the journalist who got a peek into Messi’s new life

Then que la recontra chupen. Oh dear. “May they really suck it” is the literal translation, with no subtlety needed to know what “it” refers to. As Judith wondered: “So oral sex is used in a degrading manner no matter what language, right?” Right. Again, compliments to the translators because they went for a more direct — and perhaps slightly cathartic? — equivalent with “fuck them.”

In that same interview, Messi mentioned that he went to Inter Miami in order to descomprimir — a word that literally means “decompress” but is used as “loosen up.” Speaking of which…

Tomátelo con soda

Is something riling you up no end? Stressing out over things you can’t control? Translation troubles got you down? Drink it with soda, friend. This came up in conversation a couple of times this week, with Jacob learning that it wasn’t just a quirky thing one of his friends made up. 

For clarity, “soda” in Argentina isn’t a generic term for sugary flavored fizzy drinks like in the US. We would refer to Coca-Cola as a gaseosa instead. Soda for us is carbonated water or sparkling water. Or soda water. Seltzer? Translation troubles, indeed.

Anyway. Tomátelo con soda is basically a way of saying, take a chill pill, take it easy, don’t get worked up about it. The idea comes from diluting alcohol with soda, usually wine, drinking it a different way to make it go down smoother. Picture an old-school bodegón patron with a bottle of red wine and its quintessentially Argentine pairing — a sifón (soda siphon).

Argentina is consistently one of the top consumers of carbonated water in the world — many have sifones delivered straight to their door by beloved soderos. To be fair, you could consider it a cultural necessity.

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All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald