In Argentina, food is both sacred and profane. We have firm opinions on the best ice cream and which pizzeria is superior but we’re also known to use food as fodder — verbal fodder. We’ve already weaponized bananas, turnips, and parsley so I thought we’d keep up the culinary theme with a sassy Smörgåsbord of food-related insults. To understand their meaning, not to implement, of course.
Since it’s an electoral year, we can start with a delicious political jab. A panqueque is an opportunist, someone who changes loyalties when it’s politically expedient to do so — evoking the turning of a pancake in the pan.
In English, you might call someone like this a “flip-flopper,” but I think panqueque is more fun — even when, quite cynically, you might get to thinking that they all get cooked in the end.
Unlike its namesake, the humble gnocchi, this one has layers. There is a tradition in Argentina and some South American countries of eating gnocchi on the 29th of each month. Born from a medieval Italian custom honoring Saint Pantaleon, you’re meant to put money under your plate in the hopes that it will multiply in the coming weeks.
How did this become an insult — one targeting public officials specifically? Well, it became shorthand for someone who never shows up for work except on the day salaries are doled out. In Argentina’s public administration, that day was allegedly the 29th of the month but even if it wasn’t, the metaphor is bitingly apt for someone who’s only there for the check.
However, be aware that ñoqui is often used to attack public services, in general, to imply that the government ranks are so swollen with superfluous employees that cuts are the only solution.
In English, the size of a cheese denotes importance, but in Argentina, if you’re a queso at something, you’re not particularly good at it. Usually implemented as a pretty gentle form of self-deprecation, queso lives in the same realm as nabo or turnip in that it’s pretty tame.
Calling someone a salami is more aggressive than calling them a cheese or a turnip — basically, an idiot, often a clumsy one to boot. Several articles say that the term in lunfardo was used as a belittling nickname for a person’s boyfriend when taken to meet the family (dropped only when he was accepted into the fold). However, those articles don’t provide citations, and when you look at the Todo Tango Lunfardo dictionary that meaning is not included.
In any case, it’s a fantastic word to say out loud and deploy — your tone can define whether or not you’re saying the equivalent of “silly sausage” or “imbecile.”
Me chupa un huevo
Okay so this deviates a bit from today’s assignment because it’s not calling someone a food item but since it broke my brain to stop and properly analyze it, we’ll include me chupa un huevo. The literal translation is “it sucks an egg for me” and it means “I don’t give a damn.” Well, “damn” isn’t a strong enough expletive but you get the idea.
You’ll hear this quite a lot: le chupa un huevo todo (they don’t care about anything at all), que te chupe un huevo (let it go, give less of a damn), etc. Like many of these translation troubles, the origin of this turn of phrase isn’t clear — although since “eggs” are used as a synonym for testicles, it’s not hard to see why this one is considered vulgar. If we do take eggs to mean nuts (these articles get weirder each week), it would be similar in its aggressive phallocentrism to LTA. Or it could be that sucking actual eggs is unpleasant.
On looking up an alternative, me importa un bledo, I was tickled to find out that bledo is apparently a type of celery. So although it’s used way less, we can add that to the ever-growing list of culinary ammunition without bringing harsh and frankly nasty eggs into the mix.