In Medellín, I knew this really wonderful woman named Uva. Her full name was Uvaldina, but most people seemed to call her Uva. And, believe me, her name was the least interesting thing about her. That woman was a trip. Very dicharachera, she was full of the most colorful (and frequently off-color) and wild expressions. As her speech was crackling with idioms, sauciness, and playful wit, there was never a dull moment by her side. She would relentlessly create double entendres where none originally existed and make a scandal out of everything. Boisterous, over-the-top, ribald: these are all great words to describe Uva. She was also incredibly warm, loving, and generous. She made me feel like family from the start (and still does), even though I was lucky if I could understand even half of what she said. Actually, I was probably pretty lucky that I was spared many of her groan-worthy comments. Still, Uva was a lot of fun. I know I’ll never meet anyone like her.
I remember once being out with her, and I must have said some big word in Spanish. Who knows what it was– maybe retroalimentación, maybe envergadura, maybe pernoctación. (She surely would have had a heyday with all of those words, especially envergadura.) Whatever the big word was that I struggled to spit out, she then looked at me and said: ¿Se te cayó una calza? Huh? I had to request clarification. It turned out that a calza is a filling. (usually called an empaste) In very informal speech, caérsele una calza a alguien means that you struggled so much to pronounce a big, fancy word that a filling plum fell out. I’ve scurried hither and thither on the interwebs to find you some more examples, and here are my loose, idiomatic translations. I assume this phrase is very Paisa (Medellín and surroundings), and, oh man, I really wish you could hear this question asked in a thick, beautiful Paisa accent. I’d record myself saying it, but my accent just isn’t what it used to be–alas!
Juemadre, se me cayó una calza pronunciando interdisciplinaridad.
Geez, I cracked a tooth trying to wrap my mouth around interdisciplinaridad.
Hola Stavrula: (Casi se me cae una calza tratando de pronunciar tu nombre!)
Hi Stavrula: (One of my fillings almost fell out as I tried to say your name!)
¿Ya pusieron el video de nuestro presidente pronunciando Djokovic? Casi se le cae una calza.
Did they already put up the video of our president pronouncing Djokovic? He almost choked in the attempt.
Si en español podemos decir multitareas y no se nos cae una calza de la dentadura, ¿para qué decir multitasking?
If we can say multitareas in Spanish and keep all of our dental work in place, what would make us decide to say multitasking instead?
Is there a more natural way to say this in English? The only one coming to me right now is to say that something is a mouthful. Anyway, the takeaway is that you have to be careful with those big words in Spanish! If you’re not cautious, you’re liable to lose not only your pride but also a few fillings in the process. Maybe dentists in Medellín send patients with new fillings home with instructions to avoid caramel, avoid hard candies, and to strictly avoid all foreign words (especially of English and Slavic provenance) and words over six syllables. As I don’t have any fillings, though, I have no excuse for being timid about pronouncing the big words. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to effortlessly say programaremos (a tricky word for me) sin que se me trabe la lengua.