It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post on a single word. Imagínate: all the clatter and din of Spanish muffled and reduced to one tidy term. The never-ending complexity pared down to one taut linguistic unit. Relax. Let all your troubles ease away. You’ll learn all the rest of those words . . . tomorrow. Right now, all you have to do is savor this tiny sip of knowledge. No deep draughts for today. Let’s live dangerously and content ourselves with only a little learning just this once. It’s the weekend, after all.
The word is corchar. It’s highly Colombian, so try to refrain from using it with people from other countries unless you’re the type to include footnotes in your speech. Brandish it, however, when talking to Colombians, and you’ll win major brownie points. When it comes time to redeem your brownie points, if you’re in Colombia, I recommend Mr. Brown brownies with arequipe, but the Mama-ía brand never disappoints either. You can’t go wrong either way.
Returning to corchar–it simply means to stump somebody. Perhaps on purpose (you sly devil, you), perhaps on accident. The thing is, you’ve asked a question and the other person hasn’t the foggiest. It’s a delicate position to put someone in, so be gracious and keep your ego in check.
¿Cuál es la capital de Sri Lanka? – Mm . . . ¿sabes qué? No tengo la más mínima idea. ¡Me has corchado! What’s the capital of Sri Lanka? – Hm, you know what? I haven’t the slightest clue. You got me!
Corchamos al profe al preguntarle sobre una política de Castro que desconocía. We stumped the teacher, asking him about one of Castro’s policies that he didn’t know about.
¿Conque no sabes quién era Simone de Beauvoir? Ah, no lo puedo creer, ¡te corché! Entonces sí hay una que otra cosa que ignoras después de todo. You don’t know who Simone de Beauvoir was? I can’t believe it; I’ve outsmarted you! So there are a few things you don’t know after all.
Siempre termino corchada cuando mi niña me hace preguntas de la nada sobre el sexo o la muerte. I never know what to say when my daughter asks me random questions about sex or death.
The word obviously has some relation to the noun corcho, a cork. I visualize my brain being stuffed with a cork, preventing any of that delicious wine (er, knowledge?) from coming out when I need it. Surely that makes just as much sense (if not more) than the idea of stump-ing a person. I remember that I learned corchar from my friend Dayana on the Universidad Nacional campus in Bogotá. Another related phrase that might be useful to you, this one by way of Mariana, one of my top students, is pregunta capciosa–a trick question.
By the way, remember how I said that I had the flu in my last post? Yeah, I was way off. I actually had severe pneumonia. I had to be in the hospital for three days this week. Gracias a Dios, I’m much better now, but I have no voice! I can only whisper. Being as talkative as I am, I think it’s giving all my friends a well-deserved break. My readers, however, will have no such luck. The onslaught of Spanish will continue! We will learn and learn until we are no longer the corchados but rather the ones that corchan, los corchadores, if you will. There’s a lot of ground to cover.
_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with this word? Had you heard it before? How have you heard it used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?