Bats in Colombian Spanish

People seem to find my blog in interesting and sundry ways, most of which originate with Google. I’ll share some of the searches some day. The questions are funniest, as well as the long, sprawling searches.

Example: i trying to read these words but they are in spanish

That happens to me all the time. Seriously, nonstop. I love Spanish words, though. You won’t find me venting to Google about it, no siree.

Today someone found me through a slightly more logical search:

colombian spanish for bat

Now, this I can say something slightly useful about! So, I will. My pseudonym is vocabat, after all. It means nothing–please don’t lose any sleep over it–but it is fitting that I share the wee bit that I know about bats in Colombian Spanish. From the looks of it, at least one person wants to know, and that’s all the motivation this blogger needs.

“Bat” in Spanish is murciélago. I’m sure you already knew that.  Now, zoologists may have a bone to pick with this classification, but according to Spanish, a bat ain’t nothin’ but a blind mouse. According to the RAE, murciélago was originally murciégalo. See what they did there? I didn’t either at first glance. They just switched the “g” and the “l,” that’s all. Apparently, this derives from the Latin mus, muris for mouse (ratón), and caecŭlus, the diminutive of caecus, blind (ciego). So, it’s just a faulty mouse. In Spanish, mouse – vision = bat. That must make them feel great about themselves! It’s totally un-PC and reeks of ableism, but whatever.

Also, did you know that murciélago has only four syllables? I bet you pronounce it with five, don’t you? I always did, too, and then I learned that the cié is kept together because it’s a dipthong. Mur-cié-la-go. I also used to always say aeropuerto with four syllables, and then I noticed that everyone in Colombia pronounced it with five. It’s a-e-ro-puer-to. I think a lot of English natives tend to pronounce the first part as ai. Understandable, but wrong. It’s the little things that always get me!

I recently learned a cool word for bat in Colombian Spanish: chimbilá

Isn’t it great? I learned it while watching one of Colombia’s most famous telenovelas, Betty la fea (the original Ugly Betty). Here’s the line:

¡Y donde le presente a ese chimbilá me hace echar!

And if I introduce that hideous thing to him, he’ll fire my ass!

(referring to Betty) (note that it’s el chimbilá)

I’m not quite clear if it’s a certain kind of bat or a word for bat in general, but it’s apparently rather old-fashioned and regional. Just what region is a bit fuzzy- one source said it was a bogotanismo, another said it’s used in los llanos orientales, and another in small towns. One distinguished paper posited that it came from kimbiambila, a word from Kimbundu, a Bantu language from Angola, a remnant of slavery in Colombian Spanish from black slaves in Bogotá. Fascinating. It also exists as chimbilaco. Since bats don’t usually win any beauty pageants, you can understand why Betty was described as one. Pobrecita.

That’s the only word for bat that’s specifically Colombian Spanish that I’ve come across, but maybe my readers will add more. Online, I saw murceguillo, vampiro, and vespertillo as synonyms for bat.

Oh, and “blind as a bat” in Spanish is ser más ciego que un topo. Blinder than a mole.

Oh, and Batman is Batman.

All right, Google, send me another Colombian Spanish bat enthusiast! This time I’m ready.

_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with these words? Had you heard them before? How have you heard them used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 

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10 responses to “Bats in Colombian Spanish

  1. Hehe… yeah i know what you mean, we always get “wall squats” that lead to our blog; it usually leads them to the butt ghost post.

    I really enjoyed reading this entry. For some reason bat always reminds me of the tongue twister with “parangaricutirimícuaro”, which apparently goes like “El pueblo de Parangaricutirimícuaro se va a desparangaricutirimicuarizar. Quien logre desparangaricutirimicuarizarlo gran desparangaricutirimicuarizador será.”

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    • Thanks, Manu! That’s sweet of you. I really enjoyed writing this entry. I actually put a lot more thought and time into writing my posts than you’d think. And I have dozens of elaborate drafts that I got bored with and never published. Blogging life’s rough– I’m sure you can relate :)

      Now, what was the connection between bats and the tongue twister?? Sorry, I didn’t quite follow. Haha, those words are crazy!

      So, had you ever heard chimbilá before? I’m dying to know over here.

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      • Oh, I never explained that connection. There is a tongue twister that I really liked as a kid ¡Esta noche vendrá un murciélago, me desnarizorejará y se irá! which then led me to thinking about tongue twisters with long words.

        No, I’ve never heard of chimbilá, of course that doesn’t mean it’s not used in some other part of Colombia. I speak rolo and am familiar with valluno or paisa slang, which means that word can’t be from paisa land (Caldas or Antioquia), el Valle del Cauca or Cundinamarca.

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        • OK, gotcha. Yikes, that is hard to say!

          As far as I can tell, chimbilá is more of a generational thing. Who knows, maybe your parents or grandparents would at least recognize it as something from way back. But it was interesting to me to hear it on Betty la fea, produced and set in Bogotá.

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  2. Nunca escuché ni “chimbilá” ni “ser más ciego que un topo” ni “murceguillo” ni “vespertillo”. Por acá le decimos “murciélago” simplemente; hay quienes se confunden y dicen “murciégalo”, como era originalmente :P

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    • No me extraña para nada– no sos colombiano, lamentablemente ;)

      Jaja, entonces los que dicen murciégalo, aunque a vos te parecía que ni siquiera habían cursado kinder, de hecho estaban mostrando su erudición extraordinaria.

      Dicen que algo es más ciego que otro animalito, entonces? O un ciego es un ciego y ya, punto, sin necesidad de comparaciones con animales inocentes?

      Gracias por el comentario.

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  3. ¿Qué querés decir con eso de “lamentablemente”, che? Bien argentino soy y me gusta serlo ;)

    Y no, que yo sepa no tenemos eso de “es más ciego que un…”.

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  6. Some Spanish speakers turn aeropuerto into six syllables by thinking that the first part of the compound is aéreo (which is a real Spanish adjective), so they mistakenly say a-e-re-o-puer-to.

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