As a lover of all things linguistic, one of the fun parts of having come from my background has been what are called “Cubanismos,” those colorful phrases that are so perfectly and uniquely Cuban in flavor — and impossible to translate in any conceivably coherent way. (An hilarious offshoot of the “Cubanismo” includes the pronunciations of some of the more commonplace American venues and items, as in the T-shirt, left.)

Also referred to as “Cubonics,” these sayings comprise a zany subset of what is otherwise known as Spanish, and to this day I still discover a new nugget or two along the way.  Following are just a few of these accidentally creative expressions, their nonsensical English transcriptions, and what they actually signify.

Me importa tres pepinos
I care three cucumbers
Meaning: I could care less

Eramos pocos y parió Catana
We were few and Catana gave birth
Meaning: As if things weren’t bad enough

Es un arroz con mango
It is a rice with mango
Meaning: It’s a complicated thing

Me estás tomando el pelo
You are drinking my hair
Meaning: You’re pulling my leg

Es un higado a las tres de la mañana
[He or she] is a liver at three o’clock in the morning
Meaning: He or she is a very unpleasant person

Le zumba el merequetén (also le zumba el merequeténgue; le zumba el mango)
It heaves (or throws) the merequetén (no English equivalent)
Meaning: It blows my mind

(So… time to run out and pick up a couple of things at “el Pūbli”
otherwise known as Publix.)

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