Make my workplace smalltalk for me
April 30, 2009 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Some Spanish speaking guys at work have taken to calling me "Rambo". Give me some suggestions for good humorous rejoinders, especially in Spanish. I have never seen the movie and speak no Spanish.

They started calling me "Rambo" because I wear a sweatband at work to keep sweat off my face when I am running around the warehouse throwing boxes. They do the same job, but only speak just enough English to get by. I want to be able to return the friendly gesture, and hopefully make them laugh. By the way, this is definitely friendly teasing, not mocking derision, so I would not want to reply with a putdown or something.
posted by idiopath to Work & Money (49 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I want to be able to return the friendly gesture

Learn some Spanish
posted by BrnP84 at 3:20 AM on April 30, 2009

posted by telstar at 3:21 AM on April 30, 2009

What BrnP said. If you try to do this without knowing their language at all, you're going to look like a doofus at the very least.
posted by Mikey-San at 3:22 AM on April 30, 2009

I had to look up what Chollo meant, depending on what site you look at it could mean anything from mexican gangster, working class mexican, mexican homey, mexican with penciled eyebrows, and a few other pretty ridiculous stereotypes. Seeing as how you probably have no clue what it means either I wouldn't call them that.
posted by BrnP84 at 3:33 AM on April 30, 2009

"learning Spanish" will take you about as far at this point as "learning English" will take you if you wonder why the guys at work call you "Jethro" because you eat a lot. Best bet: befriend someone Spanish-speaking and ask them the same question.

In the short term, why not ham it up? Start wearing star-spangled tank-tops and boxing shorts. Play-spar with the Spanish-speakers. You will learn Spanish a lot faster that way.

Chollo, where I come from, means, "Solid, working class dude from Mexico". I agree, maybe don't start with that, get into it more gradually.
posted by telstar at 3:38 AM on April 30, 2009

In the short term, why not ham it up? Start wearing star-spangled tank-tops and boxing shorts. Play-spar with the Spanish-speakers. You will learn Spanish a lot faster that way.

I think you're thinking of Rocky, not Rambo.
posted by The Michael The at 3:49 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Give me some suggestions for good humorous rejoinders...

Laughing and smiling goes a long way in any language.

Or if you want them to stop, strap one of these to your thigh.
posted by rokusan at 3:57 AM on April 30, 2009

I assume they are Mexican, so... try responding enthusiastically "orale", "orale compadre" (OHrale comPAdhre), or "no mames" (Noh mahmes)

P.S. I am not Mexican, so I may be wrong here, but these would make me laugh coming from a gringo.
posted by Theloupgarou at 4:05 AM on April 30, 2009

I think it would be funny if you could say one of the Rambo lines in Spanish. Were there any famous Rambo lines? On IMDB, they say that the tagline for the movie was, "Heroes never die; they just reload." I don't know Spanish well enough to know if "reload" in Spanish can mean "reload a gun" and "reload a truck," but maybe there's something there?
posted by Houstonian at 4:21 AM on April 30, 2009

Buy some t-shirts. One with a Rambo pic. Wear it for a few days and enjoy the laughs. Then, next day put one on with the Governator or Wolverine or something. Last day Bugs Bunny.
Seconding that random shouts back in a language you don't speak won't be great.
posted by Namlit at 4:54 AM on April 30, 2009

I don't understand why people are telling him not to say something in Spanish. I'm sure he's learned some basics, like "hello" and "thank you." Why not say something in Spanish?

In my city, we have quite a few different languages. I've never met someone who got upset if you made an attempt to say something (no matter how mangled, or how much you couldn't continue into a full-blown dialogue) in their native language. And, I've traveled quite a bit to places where English is not the primary language, and I've always been appreciative of any effort to speak to me in my language.

How is this different? In fact, how is this not good?
posted by Houstonian at 5:09 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Houstonian, I don't think anywhere here is discouraging the use of Spanish, if anything I thought it was being encouraged. And I completely agree that even attempting conversation in someone else's native tounge is highly respectable, in nearly all cases the person will appreciate the effort. But there's a difference between trying to have a legitimate conversation and throwing out phrases without really knowing the meaning of those phrases, especially if there's a chance those phrases may be offensive. I'm sure a black person in America would not applaud the effort of a Frenchman using the word nigger, no matter how genuine the Frenchman was trying to be. I'm not saying Cello is the equivalent to nigger b/c I really have no idea, but that's kinda the point.
posted by BrnP84 at 5:23 AM on April 30, 2009

I agree with those who say learn some Spanish; I only know a very few phrases of Spanish (useful ones, such as "una mas cerveza, por favor") but take care of Spanish speaking families several times a week. After spending several minutes explaining medical procedures via an interpreter I find that answering their "gracias" with a quick "di nada" before the interpreter steps in always results in big smiles.
posted by TedW at 5:24 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

eh, Chollo (I can't even spell the word right and until I really understand what it means I would never call someone that).
posted by BrnP84 at 5:27 AM on April 30, 2009

I know that it's a conflation of Hollywood action characters, but if you're called Rambo when everyone's heading off to lunch or leaving for the day, "hasta la vista, baby" might be good.
posted by aiko at 5:34 AM on April 30, 2009

If someone is a spic and span dresser you could call them Don Limpio or if they are a ladies man, then Don Juan. Don(pronounce it like the "don" in don't) sounds like a first name but is actually the equivalent of Mr. so you could put it in front of anything for comedic effect. Don Frijole? You get the idea.
posted by JJ86 at 5:48 AM on April 30, 2009

I like the idea of saying something from Rambo in Spanish. That's bound to get a laugh, even if it's just at your silly pronunciation.
posted by milarepa at 5:49 AM on April 30, 2009

i am mexican american. grew up in texas, living in san diego since very early 90s. the term is very common in both areas.

honestly, idiopath, i hate to sound like one of those PC guys, but you *really* wanna take care with the word Cholo. it might be okay for you to use with a *select* group of buddies at work, but i guarantee you, with guys you dont know, it is likely to come off badly.

the most common connotation is NOT "solid, working class mexican." i just checked it out at urbandictionary and the first 4 definitions are fairly accurate, if not all-inclusive.

in fact, if a guy is from mexico, and not at all american, he is not a cholo.

if you want something to call these guys, rather than cholo i would recommend the much safer (for non-mexicans) Ese (pronounced *sorta* like "essay"). it has an almost similar connotation as cholo but not nearly as strong, and is more like calling someone "dude" or "man."

and even if someone *were* a cholo you wouldnt really address them that way, whereas you could totally walk up to someone and be like "whats up, ese??"
posted by gcat at 5:54 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm all for random nonsense phrases in Spanish, here are a few of my favorites:

Cinco Cerveza Por Favor (Five beers please)
Una Paloma Blanca (one white dove, a song)
Viva La Quince Brigade (Long live the15th Brigade, another song)
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:02 AM on April 30, 2009

Bring sweatbands for everyone.
posted by argybarg at 6:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Wow, all these comments and only a few useful suggestions. My guess is most of the respondents here have never worked anywhere that isn't an office or a university.

When I worked in a kitchen I had to learn every horrible insult under the sun in Spanish just to keep up with the steady stream of filth coming out of the Hispanic workers' mouths. That's just how guys doing hard work act around each-other-- it's not offensive in any way. Sure he'll want to avoid anything racialist, but calling them Don Juan or something is good start. (How about saying Asta La Vista Baby? I guess that's the wrong movie but Rambo didn't really have a tagline...)

You could call them Antonio Banderas, or some other action star associated with Mexico (though he's from Spain). Mainly don't worry about it it too much tho, because no matter how much you plan and study and work on your comebacks, the non-english speakers always, always ALWAYS win.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:12 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

jesus shit don't fucking call anyone cholo
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:18 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Ok, how about a self-deprecating one? While pointing at yourself...

Comer frijoles y repetir pollo.
Literal translation: To eat beans and belch chicken.


Comer frijoles y eructar jamon. (imagine accent over the O in the last word, because I can't figure that out on my keyboard)
Literal translation: To eat beans and belch ham.

Free translation: Weak to perform though mighty to pretend.
posted by Houstonian at 6:29 AM on April 30, 2009

Watch the movie! It'd be so easy to do a little pantomime where you cock the bolt on a machine gun and fire away with your lips hung open in a Stallone-ish yell. Or pull the pin on an imaginary grenade with your teeth. The weapon possibilities are endless. If they like Rambo they're sure to be entertained and heartened that you play along.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:31 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that trying to give Spanish nicknames is going to be met with the blank stare of meh. (And nthig for the love of god don't go throwing around "cholo" -- not only is it problematic for all the reasons stated above, but if the guys are not Mexican but instead from a different spanish-speaking Latin American country, you'll get extra-puzzled WTF.)

I know you asked for rejoinders in Spanish, but I suggest another approach -- stick with what you know, culturally. Give 'em action-hero or or other popular-movie characters from American movies and TV. So if you're Rambo, someone else can be The Terminator or Rocky or Cookie Monster or whatever.
posted by desuetude at 6:38 AM on April 30, 2009

Here you can see a trailer for Rambo in Spanish. So, what about the tagline and other stuff from the trailer (you know, spoken like the action-movie voiceover guy):

"Los heroes nunca mueren. [chick-chick sound of reloading gun] Simplemente se recargen! El venir pronto a un teatro cerca de usted!"

Heroes never die. They only reload! Coming soon to a theater near you!
posted by Houstonian at 6:51 AM on April 30, 2009

Every time you hear "Rambo" you should mime using a machine gun and use a tough sneer like in this photo.

After that gets old, every time you hear "Rambo" mime using a compound bow and use the same tough sneer.

After that gets old, every time you hear "Rambo" you should stop and dramatically tie your shoes and adjust your sweatband.

After that gets old, find a new job.

(Also, you should rent FIRST BLOOD - its actually as decent action film. You should watch it dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles.)
posted by cinemafiend at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

DON'T call them/anyone a cholo!

Just watch the movie and act something out when they call you Rambo. Maybe something like a machine gun in your right arm and shooting it in a left right motion.
posted by doorsfan at 7:02 AM on April 30, 2009

Please don't call anyone a Cholo unless you know them well. You could definitely offend.
posted by OuttaHere at 7:05 AM on April 30, 2009

My guess is that wouldn't know a translated movie line. How about

"No Soy Rambo, Soy Rocky" then do some fake boxing moves.

Soy = I am
Soy is pronounced just like the tofu food.
posted by akabobo at 7:39 AM on April 30, 2009

It's hard to believe you haven't dealt with this kind of male interaction before. Just because the guys speak Spanish, it's the same thing you've grown up with. They're being friendly, and you want to return the playful gesture. Playing off who you are for comic effect is probably the easiest way to acknowledge it. If you're small, grin and pretend to swagger. If you're big, you can either nod and act it out -- with that grin, of course -- or cheerfully ham it up, "oh no, not little me." If you're all running around heaving boxes, it doesn't sound like you have much time for interaction, but if you have time to try a few basic Spanish words or phrases and indicate a willingness to improve your pronunciation it will go a long way in increasing general friendliness.
posted by kestralwing at 7:45 AM on April 30, 2009

Get someone to translate this quote:

"In town you're the law, out here it's me! Don't push me!"

Don't rely on machine translation, it won't get the nuance. Once you have it memorized, deliver it with a Stallone-style mumble-sneer.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:55 AM on April 30, 2009

"No Soy Rambo, Soy Rocky" then do some fake boxing moves.
I like this.

Nth: don't call them Cholo, it's like calling a random japanese a yakuza. I'd be pissed if you called me that.

Ask them to teach you some phrases in Spanish. I have a special place in my heart for a Malaysian guy we nicknamed "Juanito", because he learnt how to swear in Spanish in the right context (wrote them in his cellphone and everything).

"Hasta la vista, baby" is ok too. If one of them sneezes, say "Salud". That same phrase is used as "cheers!" when drinking, so say it before drinking something.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2009

Maybe its just me but I consider 'ese' a racial term - it only should be used if you're hispanic.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:46 AM on April 30, 2009

Ask them to teach you some phrases in Spanish. I have a special place in my heart for a Malaysian guy we nicknamed "Juanito", because he learnt how to swear in Spanish in the right context (wrote them in his cellphone and everything).

Yes, yes, yes. I worked with a foul-mouthed puertorriqueño when I was in college, and I'd always ask him to translate his various curse words for me and our other coworkers. It was a lot of fun, especially trying to come up with equivalencies of rudeness, if not exact meaning. I'll still drop the occasional "carajo" or "coño" when the occasion requires.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:08 AM on April 30, 2009

Just to clarify, I know smatterings of Spanish, enough to know cholo and ese are kind of iffy territory for a gringo, but am coming here because I don't know it enough to be witty. I plan on telling them "no soy Rambo, soy Rocky" today, that is pretty much exactly the kind of thing I am looking for.
posted by idiopath at 11:17 AM on April 30, 2009

I wish I knew Spanish better, but the comeback I would want to use in that working context would be something like this:

Fuck Rambo, I'm like Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris could whip Rambo's ass wile eating a Burrito (one of those big burrito's ese, not any of that tiny american taco hell burrito shit), anyway while eating a Burrito and taking a piss. In fact Rambo would faint just at Chuck Norris whipping his dick out (imitate whipping your dick out here emphasizing the size). Rambo ... shit, Rambo's a fucking pussy. Chuck Norris, he's got the cajones amigo.

Etc ... you get the picture, just pick a theme and roll with it, the crazier the better.
posted by forforf at 12:53 PM on April 30, 2009

I won't single anybody out, but most of the "Spanish" in this thread is. Probably not really an issue, but if you do pick out some phrase to learn you might want to get a Spanish speaker to confirm it for you.
posted by signal at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2009

I've been thinking about this and the only proper response is "A huevo!". Like this.

It means "Indeed!", but in a friendly, slightly off-colour, man's man sort of way. It'll be a hit.
posted by Cobalt at 2:03 PM on April 30, 2009

Oops. Correct link is here. Sorry.
posted by Cobalt at 2:13 PM on April 30, 2009

oops, I meant: most of the "Spanish" in this thread is not so great.
posted by signal at 2:31 PM on April 30, 2009

Signal, I'll speak for me in saying that if my Spanish was not right, I'd like you to correct it. Your profile says you are in Chile, so are you a native Spanish speaker?

For the one I offered that was marked as a best answer (and so, maybe he's going to use it), I pulled it from one of my Spanish Idioms textbooks. I believe, but I'm not sure, that at the time I was studying under a Cuban. I found that the Spanish I learned over the years I studied it was a mixture of whatever the teacher or professor knew natively... so a real mix of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Castilian Spanish.

I know that the words do not always mean the same thing from one location to another, and I could be offering a phrase that is not common except in a specific region.
posted by Houstonian at 4:50 PM on April 30, 2009

Houstonian, if you're pointing at yourself, the phrases should go:

"Como frijoles y repito pollo."
I eat beans and belch chicken.

"Como frijoles y eructo jamón."
I eat beans and belch ham.

Mind you, I've never heard/seen them before and had to look at the translation to understand what they meant. They may be specific to Cuba or something.

The last one should go something like this: "Los héroes no mueren. ¡Sólo se recargan! ¡Pronto, en un cine cerca de usted!"

This one is just a bit awkward in Spanish. "Recargar" has very diverse meanings that may make the phrase confusing for a second, backfiring on the desired effect.
posted by Cobalt at 6:38 PM on April 30, 2009

:) Thank you, Cobalt! You've saved the poster some embarrassment and added to my knowledge.

(Cannot believe I forgot to conjugate the verbs!)

We were often warned that the words and phrases we learned were not universally used in all Spanish-speaking countries, and I've made this type of mistake before. For example, in Costa Rica I used the word camarero and was met with laughter as it was explained to me that there, it does not mean waiter but means... I'm not sure, but something like a person who works in a bar who wears very short shorts? Alas, the waiter was not wearing short shorts... and don't even get me started about my confusion of camion/autobus/autocar/camioneta/guagua/omnibus/micros/colectivos!
posted by Houstonian at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2009

I've always marvelled at the fact that it is impossible to drive from Mexico to Argentina without seriously insulting people in every country you visit, just by speaking -what is to me- normal, ultra-polite and proper Mexican Spanish. The weirdest part is that the problematic words change at every border!

The reverse is also true, by the way. Colombians use words in their everyday lives that are verboten here, making for some very uncomfortable exchanges.
posted by Cobalt at 9:17 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pretty late to the party, but I always considered Rambo's catchphrase to be "I'm your worst nightmare." (Said to the VC general over the radio, iirc.) Not sure if the line got the same traction in Mexico, but I think doing a halfway decent pantomimime would be a hit.
posted by bjrubble at 9:48 AM on May 2, 2009

Rambo DOES have a catchphrase, "They drew first blood, not me!"

Como se dice en Espanol? Creo que es: ( how to say it in Spanish, I think it's:)

"dibujaron la primera sangre, no yo!"
posted by oblio_one at 5:22 PM on May 2, 2009

"dibujaron la primera sangre, no yo!"

Dibujar means draw, as in "draw a picture". A better, but still awkward translation would be "Ellos fueron los primeros en sacar sangre, no yo".

I've never seen a complete Rambo movie, but I found some other phrases online:

- "Para sobrevivir en la guerra, debes convertirte en la guerra"
To survive war, you must become war.

- "No he venido a salvar a Rambo de ustedes, sino a ustedes de él"
I didn't come here to save Rambo from you, I came here to save you from Rambo
posted by clearlydemon at 6:02 PM on May 3, 2009

Hey guys, thanks for the suggestions, I have learned a little bit more spanish and made some friends at work, maybe I will come back with some questions about Somali, Samoan or Russian later (the other big immigrant communities in my workplace).
posted by idiopath at 1:51 PM on May 30, 2009

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