Call me anything

I have good reason to expect a very tiny deluge of visitors to this blog in the next few days. By tiny deluge, I mean a hardy rivulet. A teeming trickle. Heaven forbid these guests come and find my site in shambles, all the surfaces covered with dust and paint peeling off the walls to suggest that the owner abandoned the place eons ago. It’s time for some spring cleaning, never mind that we’re currently in the dog days of summer. It’s spring somewhere. (Indeed, it’s eternally spring in Medellín.) Vacation’s over, my various maladies are ancient history, and it’s time to get back to a regular schedule of dispensing Spanish usefulness to the public at large. I can’t afford to desaprovechar this opportunity–mass pilgrimages to see me are nothing to sneeze at.

Our first dose of usefulness is the following construction.

Cualquier cosa + _____________________.

For example, Cualquier cosa, me llamas.

Call me if you need anything. Give me a call if anything comes up. Call me if you hear of anything. Etc.

This sentence can mean a plethora of things, but the idea is clear. Maybe I’m looking for work, and I ask you to keep your ears peeled. Maybe you’re sick, and I’m checking in on you and making you promise that you’ll call if you’re in need. Maybe I’m a cop, and I ask you if you’ve noticed any suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Whatever the situation is, if anything goes down . . . you have my number. Use it.

My Ecuadorean friend Monica was once saying goodbye to her husband (he’s American), when she suddenly called out, “Call me anything!” Whoops. A bizarre expression of total trust and love? Perhaps you would have thought that in the moment, but you now understand that her mind inadvertently slipped into Spanish mode. It’s the mode we all need to get into.

Similar phrases:

Cualquier cosa, me avisas; Cualquier cosa, me dices

And the possibilities are infinite from there.

Cualquier cosa, no dudes en llamarme. Cualquier cosa, nos haces saber. Cualquier cosa, a la orden. Cualquier cosa, estoy para ayudarte. Cualquier cosa, mi mail es voc@bat.com. Cualquier cosa, nos comunicamos por celular. Me llamas cualquier cosa. Cualquier cosa, seguimos en contacto. Cualquier cosa, te llamo.

Literary nerds will hone in on the rhetorical device of ellipsis going on here. It’s easy to fill in the blanks once you realize how these sentences work. Sometimes a little reordering is necessary as well. You also need to know that it’s very common to give polite commands in Spanish by simply using the present tense.

Cualquier cosa (que pase), me llamas.

(Estoy) a la orden (para) cualquier cosa (que necesites).

Cualquier cosa (que pase), (me puedes escribir a) mi mail (el cual) es voc@bat.com. 

Don’t you just love how Spanish resists wordiness? Throw the needless verbiage overboard! It’s all lumber, man. Save your words so you can spend them when you really need them. Embrace brevity. I try to, I swear.

Like most phrases, the cualquier cosa phrase can have many meanings, and sometimes it implies just the opposite of what it says. Here’s a Facebook group I found for those who loathe the phrase.

Odio que me digan “cualquier cosa te llamo”– Ya cuando la persona te dice “cualquier cosa” es obvio que lo último que va a hacer es llamar!!!!!! Para qué nos mienten????? Si es obvio que no nos van a llamar!!! (I can’t stand it when people say “Cualquier cosa te llamo”- Once someone says “Cualquier cosa,” it’s so obvious that the last thing they’re going to do is call!!!!!!  So what’s the point of lying about it????? It’s obvious you’re not going to call us!!!)

They have a point, but don’t let that scare you off from using cualquier cosa. It’s as sincere (or not) as you are, and it’s extremely useful. You’ll want it at the tip of your tongue and the tips of your fingers at all times.

What about you? Did you already know the cualquier cosa construction? Where have you heard it before? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 

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5 responses to “Call me anything

  1. Si lo uso todo el tiempo especialmente en el trabajo. Mas digo “cualquier cosa, me avisas” o “me dejas saber/dejame saber”. Normalmente no uso llamas. se usa “lo que sea” en ves de ‘cualquier cosa”.

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    • Muchas gracias por tu aporte, Graciela. Me fijo en lo de déjame saber– con todo respeto, me suena un poco a Spanglish, una traducción literal de “Let me know”, pero sé que ya es muy común escucharlo en este país. Yo siempre escucho y digo o Hazme saber o Avísame.

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  2. My favorite is when people offer to help or give advice re: “cualquier cosa” in an area or topic they know absolutely nothing about. Which is to say, all the time here. I know you want to be helpful all the time, Colombians, but sometimes it just ain’t gonna happen (but we do appreciate it)!

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