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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish word of the day: ‘Enchufe’

Beyond its most literal meaning, this word describes something Spaniards hate but often take full advantage of.

Spanish word of the day: 'Enchufe'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Why do I need to know this word?

“Enchufe” means socket or power outlet and it can also refer to the plug from the electrical device itself which you plug in.

But this word has a much more powerful meaning in Spanish, referring to a whole concept, one which is prevalent in Spanish work culture.

To have “enchufe” means to have friends in high places, when you get a job because of a friend or family member you know who recommends you or straight up puts you in the position.

It’s also the act of using the influence you have over an organisation or person to gain favours, so “enchufe” can also mean you get free tickets for a concert or for who you know or picked for the football team because your dad is the coach.

The practice can be described in a colloquial way as “enchufismo” and the person who benefits from it based on his or her network is “enchufado” (plugged in its most literal sense, but in this case meaning set up in a job or favoured).

Headline in La Sexta reads “Ciudadanos Party proposes an “anti-favouritism” law to prevent “setting up friends in jobs” in Spanish politics. 

It’s an important word to know if you’re part of a Spanish work environment but also because it describes how things go when it comes to employment in Spain.

According to a 2019 report, there are 1.1 million family businesses in Spain, representing 89 percent of the country’s total.

Whereas it may make some sense to keep work in the family if a company is small and local, you don’t have to look far to find reports of “enchufismo” in huge Spanish businesses such as supermarket chain Mercadona and departments stores El Corte Inglés.

Spain’s notoriously dire employment market and the fact that extra qualifications don’t necessarily lead to a job, means that meritocracy is often second to “enchufe”.

Who can I use this word with?

Perhaps everyone except your boss. It’s colloquial and often has a negative connotation but it’s widely used in work environments and elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean that if you remind someone they got a job due to “enchufe” that they’ll appreciate it.

They’re more likely to prefer it if you call them a “trepa” (an upstart) or “buscavidas” (self-starter), even if it’s not true.

Can you give me some examples?


Ha conseguido el puesto de trabajo por enchufe. El jefe es su tío.

He got the job because of connections. His uncle is the boss.


El enchufismo está muy extendido en la política y el sector financiero español.

String-pulling/Nepotism is rife in Spain’s political and financial systems.


Es una enchufada. No tiene ni idea de derecho internacional.

She’s a well-connected person. She doesn’t have a clue about international law. 

 

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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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