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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘¡Dale caña!’

This expression can be useful if you want someone to get a scolding but also if you need to move faster.

Spanish Expression of the Day: '¡Dale caña!'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Why do I need to know this Spanish expression?

Well, it can be used in different circumstances and, as it’s usually blurted out in Spanish, you’re sure to get a quick response.

“¡Dale caña!” is used to encourage someone to give another person a scolding, a good hiding or a run for his or her money.

It doesn’t necessarily have to mean a physical beating, but rather the concept of ‘giving them hell’, of having a go at them, to crack the whip.

So if you’re encouraging your friend to beat their opponent at tennis you’d say to them “dale caña” as a way of encouraging them.

The other very common usage of “¡Dale caña!” is to get someone to go or drive faster, to get a move on, to put their foot on it, to give more intensity to something.

Spaniards also use “¡Metéle caña!” rather than “dale” (from dar, to give) to the same effect.

The meme reads “Put your foot on it boy or we won't get to mass in time”.

Isn't “caña” beer in Spanish? How did they come up with such a weird expression?

In its most literal sense, “dar caña” means ‘to give cane’, which explains the origins of the words.

Caña in Spanish can mean many things – a small glass of beer, a fishing rod (caña de pescar), a cannoli, the leg of the boot- but in this case the expression “dar caña” refers to a cane or reed.

Some sources say that “dar caña” comes from the fact that such canes or reeds were used by farmers to spank cattle into moving or to get them to do what they were told.

Others say that “dale caña” when referring to increasing speed comes from the tiller – a lever used to help steer the rudder on some boats.

Who can I use this expression with?

It’s a colloquial expression so use it with people you know.

Afterall, it’s a command which uses the imperative of either “dar” (give) or “meter” (put/stick) so use it in situations which warrant action.

Can you give me some examples?

¡Dale caña! ¡Ha suspendido cinco asignaturas!

¡Give her a good scolding! She’s failed five subjects!

 

¡Venga! Eres mejor jugador que él. ¡Dale caña!

Come on! You’re a better player than him! Give him hell!

 

¡Dale caña que no llegamos a tiempo al embarque!

Step on it or we won’t get there in time for boarding!

 

¡Dale caña a los huevos que tenemos que tener la tortilla lista en media hora!

Hurry up with those eggs! We need to have the tortilla ready in half an hour.

 

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Chachi’

Who would’ve thought that there’s a word used all the time in Spain that has something to do with Winston Churchill? Or so the story goes. 

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Chachi'

Chachi is a colloquial way to express approval for something or someone, in the sense of it/them being cool, awesome or great.

It’s mainly a word used by young people in Spain, so saying it to your bank manager or boss may raise an eyebrow or two, but it’s in no way derogatory or rude.

There’s even the expression ¡Chachi piruli Juan Pelotilla! that was popularised by a 90s’ kids show on TV called Telebuten, but it’s now a rather outdated way of saying ‘cool’ in Spanish. 

Chachi is certainly a rather bizarre sounding word and Spain’s Royal Academy actually has it recorded as deriving from chanchi (which nobody uses).

Linguists are not 100 percent certain about the origin of the word but there are two very interesting theories. 

The first is that chachi was first coined in the southern coastal city of Cádiz during World War II, at a time where hunger among locals and contraband at the port were both rife.

Smuggled goods from nearby Gibraltar were considered of the utmost quality as they came from the United Kingdom, and the story goes that Gaditanos (the name for people from Cádiz) referred to these bootlegged products as ‘charchil’, in reference to UK Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill.

Over time, charchil became chachi, a slang word which (if the story is true) came to mean ‘cool’ across Spain.

Other philologists believe that chachi comes from Caló, the language spoken by Spain’s native gipsy or Roma population. 

Chachipé or chachipen reportedly means ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ in this language spoken by 60,000 people across the Iberian Peninsula.

This could’ve been shortened to chachi and gone from being used like chachi que sí/claro que sí (of course) to chachi to mean ‘cool’.

Whichever theory is true, chachi is a great word to add to your arsenal of Spanish vocab. 

There’s also the Spanish word guay, which has a very similar meaning to chachi; we reviewed it here.

Examples: 

Carlos es un tío chachi. 

Carlos is a cool guy.

¡Pásalo chachi!

Have a great time!

La verdad es que es juego de mesa muy chachi.

The truth is it’s a very cool board game.

¡Qué chachi! Van a hacer un concierto en la plaza.

How cool! They’re going to hold a concert in the square.

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