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Chileans are a bunch of potty-mouths. There, I said it.

I have never heard so many, so colorful, so floridly descriptive garabatos (swear words) any place else in my life. Of course, I’ve also lived here for a long time, and seem to have an ear for such things. I also think that your grandmother (but certainly not mine) was right, and that they lose their impact when you use them all the time. And if you were wondering, for the most part I don’t participate.

One of the main garabatos is “conchasumadre.” It means, roughly, that part of your mother’s anatomy through which you arrived to this world. Charming! Think for a moment about shouting it at your kid’s next little league game or if your niece takes a dive during her ballet recital. Saying it in Spanish might not be your style, so choose some other language and just let it go! You’ll be the talk of the town!

But sometimes even in potty-mouth Chile, someone will get partway through the swear and have second thoughts. What if a child is nearby (most probable). Or maybe the family priest (unlikely). Or what if I just decided that your mother’s anatomy doesn’t bear shouting about? Well, don’t worry, they’ve got a silly expression for that. Chileans have an out as they get half-way through the word, and they can say instead of the term at hand, contumelia.

Apparently this is an insult that we come to from Latin, but whatever its underlying meaning is, it can’t be as grosero as the Chilean version.

Occasionally, the speaker gets even closer to the actual term, and inserts instead, Conchalí! This one is particularly clever because the word concha (which originally just means seashell) is actually present in the replacement word, and also, Conchalí is a comuna, or district of Santiago (which I don’t believe I’ve yet explored on bike on its own, but I have been to all the surrounding comunas by bike, so I may actually have crossed in without knowing). It makes me want to replace the offensive word not just with Conchalí, but with other nearby comunas, like Quilicura or Huechuraba or Recoleta, or the best of all, Independencia! (just because it’s a great name, no harm meant to the other comunas). While the possibilities are not endless here, they are various, since in Santiago alone we have either 32 or 37 comunas, depending on how you look at things (some are considered part of the RM, or región metropolitana, but geographically they technically are not).

Another silly replacement word for a swear word is chupalla, which is a kind of hat, but takes its power from the fact that chupar means to suck. I know, you wish you’d thought of it yourself.

And for those of you who have a passing knowlege of Spanish, you’ll know why I should have posted this on a Wednesday. (miérrrrrcoles being the stand-in for mierda, which your great aunt Gracie would have said, “sugar, honey, iced tea).

Have a great effing day!