Translation troubles: newspaper of fourth

The Herald explores some Argentine terms that came up around the presidential run-off

Well, that was a heart-stopping couple of weeks. There is plenty of uncertainty ahead but at least we can say the presidential run-off is now behind us. 

In the run-up to the elections, as a newsroom, we sat down and collectively wrote an editorial outlining how and why we consider the now-president-elect Javier Milei a threat to Argentina. As was to be expected, there was a lot of support and some detractors: let’s look at a couple of attempted put-downs thrown our way because I can’t resist. However ill-aimed it may be, language is highly entertaining.


A pasquinade is a satirical piece of writing or an illustration that’s often anonymously published, a practice that can be traced to Ancient Rome. The term comes from medieval Italy — adorably, pasquino was the nickname for a Hellenistic statue where such messages were often glued. In Argentina and other countries in the region, though, pasquín is a derogatory term for a newspaper, often used to mean a sensationalist, cheap, low-quality, and mediocre publication. 

Not that we would know, of course.

You may also be interested in: Milei’s win is not a license to undermine democracy

De cuarta

This was already on my list for translation troubles because it has also come up in conversation in the newsroom — de cuarta, which would literally be “of fourth” meaning “low quality.” 

As has happened way too often with these, finding the origins is a struggle: I decided to stop trying after getting knee-deep into an onomasiological paper that was only tangentially related. My tame guess is that it’s from de cuarta categoría — belonging to a fourth category, a lower rung — or similar, especially since we will say de primera for something good, although less frequently. Interestingly, the Argentine Football Association’s fourth football division seems to have been its lowest until 1986

But frankly, I think it’s just because saying something is de cuarta is satisfying on a phonetic level. Really draw out those rr’s.


Since we’re here, let’s look at another term that came up during the run-off, specifically in Milei’s victory speech —  being “warm,” with the noun tibieza describing someone who doesn’t take a stand or have strong convictions. This is fairly straightforward: neither hot nor cold, a “warm” person avoids sticky subjects almost to the point of cowardice (no seas tibio). We went with “lukewarm” to try and convey the negative connotations of the term, especially since you can also use it in English to convey something lackluster. 

As a bonus, we were also described as berreta, which we’ve already seen in a previous translation trouble column — whatever our perceived faults, tibieza isn’t one of them. Either way, don’t worry: we’ve been drinking all this with soda. 

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