¿Que Onda Güey? It just Slips Off the Tongue

Here in the US it’s not as much a part of every day exchanges as it’s become in Mexico.

When I was a kid in Nuevo Laredo my buddies’ names were secondary, more of a reference point. All my friends were güeyes. So was I. That and ca’on. As in: ¿Que onda ca’on? Nada güey. ¿Tu? Lo mismo güey.

See how well that flows? Of course, the finer folks didn’t utter the word for fear of sounding ordinarios. But we knew they wanted to; they coveted our freedom of expression…ca’ones.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times it turns out that güey has become an almost universally accepted noun in Mexico, much like “dude” is here in the US.

A guey (pronounced “way”) can be a spiky-haired boy, a stubbly-chinned jitney driver, a college student with a ring in her nose. Take a table near a bunch of Mexican teens and it often sounds as if all other parts of speech were designed to transport you from one “guey” to the next. Even narco thugs have scrawled the word as an epithet in threatening banners, misspelling it wey.

My Mama Grande would roll in her grave!

I’m not sure how this whole thing crept up on us, I just know it did. I’ve also noticed how the words that were once relegated to grocero boys in the school yard and working men in cantinas and work sites have become acceptable among the fairest of Mexican ladies.

Some Mexicans worry about a proliferating usage of slang terms once considered too coarse for common use. They blame the looser talk on television and radio, as well as social changes that have given Mexican women equal access to colloquialisms, even raunchy ones.

There are many people, though, who believe that the laxity of language in Mexico has gone too far. Could it be a sign of the demise of the Mexican formalismo?

There has always been an understood formality of personal exchanges in Mexico. I was taught, as many of you were, the clear distinction between the formal usted and the familiar tu. A slip from the formal to the familiar was met with a raised eyebrow –  in the case of some of my friends, even worse that that. But if you understand Mexican idiosyncrasy you’ll also understand the wider use of some words – at some level we’re all güeyes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it has to do with the creativity of the Mexican language.

The flexibility of Mexican slang allows even some profanities to be stretched and refolded into a mind-boggling variety of uses, some of which no longer carry an X-rated punch. “It’s a magical word. A change of tone, a change of inflection is enough to change its meaning,” Mexico’s revered man of letters Octavio Paz once waxed about a ubiquitous verb that won’t be waxed about here.

All I know is that it’s wonderful to vent in Mexican slang where you can sling profanity, invent new forms and create new meanings in a most explicit and satisfying way. It’s heartwarming to know that güey has become an endearment.

I gotta go now, I have to tuitear this and put it on feisbuk.

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

How a harsh criticism turned ‘Coco’ into Pixar’s most uniquely made movie yet

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

Director Lee Unkrich was hot off the box office success and Oscar win for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” when he delved into making a movie that focused on the Mexican […]

Trump Administration Targets and then Mocks Immigrant with Prosthetic Leg

Victor Landa November 15, 2017

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant with prosthetic leg and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status has been detained by federal immigration agents and held without charges for over a month, treated inhumanely […]

More Latinas are becoming teachers and reshaping our nation’s classrooms

Victor Landa November 29, 2017

The growth of the Latino population in the United States will have a lasting cultural and intellectual impact beyond the arts, food, and celebrations. More and more, Latinas are becoming […]

As Numbers Grow, Recognizing Generations Of Latino Veterans

Victor Landa November 10, 2017

As the nation honors its veterans, government officials point to the growing numbers of Latinos in the military, while Hispanic scholars and historians remind us of the generations of Latino […]

U.S Hispanic Chamber Leader Who Has Had Turbulent Relationship With Trump May Be Ousted

Victor Landa November 22, 2017

The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) is moving behind the scenes to oust its prominent president Javier Palomarez over allegations that he misused the organization’s money for his personal […]

How Indie Latinx Comic Book Authors Are Capturing the Latinx Experience

Victor Landa November 13, 2017

Back in 2010, comics creator Javier Hernandez was walking around San Francisco with his friend Ricardo Padilla when he had an idea: Why don’t they build a comics convention focusing […]

Half of Latino Immigrant Characters on TV Are Portrayed as Criminals, Study Finds

Victor Landa November 1, 2017

Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors, and producers concerning Latino immigrant characters. Immigrants and […]

Could Hispanic vote push Lupe Valdez into Texas Governor’s Office?

Victor Landa December 8, 2017

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running as a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor after a year of speaking out on big state issues– particularly the controversial sanctuary cities ban. Experts says […]