Wink wink nudge nudge

Yesterday being Sunday, I was out walking in the Ciclovía (I want rollerblades for Christmas!), and I briefly got caught in the middle of a piropo sandwich. Behind me and to my right a little, one guy was saying to another, qué mujer más hermosa, es radiante, radiante como el sol. I cocked my face about five degrees and gave the tiniest little upward curl of the lips to show that I appreciated it. I don’t know if it’s true, but I want to be radiant!

And right then an old man who was seated on a sort of giant planter box (that separates the bike lane from the rest of the street) said to me out of nowhere, usted no me pica el ojo, que estoy comprometido ya. And then laughed at his joke/piropo. If I’d heard that a few years ago when I was a Colombian Spanish virgin, I would have thought he was saying something like, you don’t make my eye itch. So, I would have figured that to make someone’s eye itch was to seem attractive to them, to catch their eye (and pour itching powder into it), making them crazy for you. I’m no longer a Colombian Spanish spring chicken, though, so I knew that picar el ojo has nothing to do with itchiness or spiciness or any of picar‘s usual meanings. Here, as well as in a few other countries, picar el ojo means to wink at someone. Wink wink, wink wink . . . that’s it, you’re an old pro.

To wink is usually guiñar, and a wink is a guiñoWhich is how I usually hear it here, even though you could say picada de ojo. I’m not much of a winker in real life, but I’m a very prolific winker in writing. wink How else to convey your ultra-facetious and flirtatious nature? wink Fine, fine; my ultra-facetious and flirtatious nature. wink Until recently I had someone to wink all the livelong day at, and it was great. wink wink You know how they say it’s physically impossible to sneeze and keep your eyes open? It was similarly impossible for me to get a sentence out with quickly closing at least one eye. wink Happily, my winking was neither unrequited nor unrewarded. wink wink Now my writing is full of sober, grim emoticon-free sentences or, at best, just a half-hearted, staid smiley smile (frown), which is never quite as fun as when accompanied by a playful open-and-shut of the eyes. I’ve got an eye itch that needs a scratching badly! wink

I remember that in Medellín they also said matar el ojo for to wink. To kill the eye–just imagine. I’m thinking that might be overkill; a mere scratch has worked just fine for me to make my point. But if the phrase was ever apt for an individual, here he is.

If winks could kill

By the way, in case you think winking is puerile and distasteful (in a vice-presidential debate, of course) and just gives you eye wrinkles, you should know that one day when we all use Google Glass, we’re going to be winking as furiously with our eyes as people used to peck away with their thumbs on their Blackberries. For now, you take a picture by winking, but I’m sure that the wink feature will continue to be developed. So, we might as well start practicing now.

So, what the old man had said was (in, I should point out, a totally non-gross, non-dirty, non-creepy old man way) was, don’t you wink at me–I’m already taken! Wishful thinking, I mean, wishful winking, at its finest. But I was in a good mood, and he said it in a very friendly, good-natured way and the sun was beautiful and radiant, so I just smiled and went on my way wink


13 responses to “Wink wink nudge nudge

  1. I’m not familiar with that expression, but I love it! I’ll have to file it away in my internal glossary for idiomatic expressions from other countries.

    Are you sure he didn’t say, “Usted no me pique el ojo…” and not “pica”? I can’t give a definite explanation for it, but for “don’t you wink at me,” my instinct says it would be expressed with the subjunctive rather than the indicative. The use of the indicative would lead me to translate it instead as “you don’t make me wink” rather than “don’t you wink.”


    • Hey Beatriz,

      I thought about it for a long time (because, assuming I’m not wrong, I can definitely see how that would be confusing and not intuitive for most Spanish-learners and maybe even other speakers), and I’d bet almost any amount of money that he said no me pica and not no me pique. But maybe I missed it. Affirmative commands are given in the present tense all the time, as I know you know, and I feel that sometimes negative ones are as well. Though of course I can’t think of definite examples at the moment. He was definitely play-scolding me. If only I could walk by there again and get a replay of the whole scene! I’ll try ;)


      • It could be an idiomatic thing about your region in Colombia (which I admit I don’t know too much about), but I can’t really think of an example where a negative affirmation (as a command… I don’t know how else to phrase it, I apologize) would be given without the subjunctive. Maybe I need to reflect on it a little more. But, for example, if I say, “No tengas miedo,” I am asking someone not to be afraid, whereas saying it the indicative, “No tienes miedo,” means I’m acknowledging that the person is not afraid. Other examples I can think of are, “No me llames” (Don’t call me) vs. “No me llamas” (You never [don’t ever] call me).


        • Maybe command is the wrong way of explaining/understanding it. In any case, I’m almost certain that’s how he said it, and with the rest of the sentence I know he was pretending to admonish me. I’ll ask around :)


  2. If an image is worth a thousand words, how much is a George Constanza animated gif worth?

    Also, I guess theres something to be said about loosing your perception of depth in the Ciclovia, even for a winking split second. It seems he was, in his wishful-thinkfulness, afraid for your safety when he politely asked you not to give in to his winkiness! It’s nice to have such concerned citizens, right?


    • It’s priceless ;)

      Ha! Well, I was just walking–no risk of toppling off my bike or anything. I really wish I could put this no me pica v. no me pique thing to rest- it’s bugging me. Thoughts?


  3. I guess you can always take the same-place-same-time-next-week approach, get the same piropo from the same guy, which is not all that improbable actually, and then ask him why in the world is he using the present tense. Not a weird plan at all, right?

    In any case, I believe the no me pica version of the expression is an even more emphatic expression of a command. It works like a command in the sense that you’re not asking… but not even telling… you’re down right assuming that things play out as you call them, hence the present tense. Sort of like when a mother see’s her 15 year old daughter opening the door all dressed up and doesn’t bother telling her “don’t go out tonight” but rather “oh, you’re not going out tonight”.

    Not sure if I’m helping or making it worse!


    • I might try that :)

      That’s exactly how I understood it! But I couldn’t figure out how to articulate it. Again, though, I wouldn’t swear on my life that it was pica and not pique.


      • Hey, I believe you heard “pica”! :) I was simply throwing it out there because sometimes when speaking quickly, the “que” and “ca” sound can easily get mixed up within a sentence. In my mind, based on your explanation of the expression, “pique” just sounds more logical. But it could very well be a regional thing. The use of the subjunctive can be very… well… subjective among native speakers, even within the same region. It gets tricky.


        • Sigh… see what being a language nerd does to you? A girl can’t even enjoy a simple piropo anymore ;)

          I’m sure this guy never imagined that his throwaway line would end up being discussed for days by linguists! Imagine me papering downtown with a flyer to track the guy down: REWARD Seeking elderly man who gave a piropo to an American girl walking by herself down the Séptima on November 23 at approximately 11 am. Of utmost importance to determine whether no me pica el ojo or no me pique el ojo was uttered. This is not a joke; real money will be furnished if you can provide key information on this case.

          Out to get more piropos! Soy una cazapiropos and cazapalabras.

          (It probably was pique.)

          (But in my mind I’ll keep storing this piropo as pica.)

          (Not that any of this matters.)


  4. I don’t know what he said, but I’d say he said pique. Pica just makes no sense. So its either that (i) you were so excited that you did not hear correctly, or (ii) the guy was in such awe of your sight that he flustered and said the wrong word. Or (iii), I am wrong.


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