To really connect in a foreign language, you have to learn how to play with it.

Mexicans have a way with expressions. They use Spanish the way a bullfighter uses a flag – to grab your attention, to add a little romance and drama and flair, to turn a dull conversation into artful swoops of language.

1. caerle gordo a alguien

Used to refer to someone who rubs you the wrong way. For example, that friend of ours who never returned the book I lent her, and who’s always gossiping about everyone else, ella me cae gorda. You can use “caerme …” to describe how you get along with someone in general – “me cae bien, me cae mal” – with the literal, direct translation being how well someone falls on you. In this particular version, my favorite, someone falls fat on you.

2. pintarse de colores

Get the hell out of there. As in, what my Mexican friends do when I try to convince them to go trail running, what kids do the second the last bell rings at the end of the school day.

3. echarle ganas

Throw some life into it. “Echale ganas!” you might say to someone who looks like they’d rather be doing anything other than what they’re doing at that moment.

4. tener ganas de

Crave, have a desire to, have the urge to. Applies to cravings big and small, culinary and otherwise. In my case, tengo ganas de viajar por Belice, tengo ganas de comer chilaquiles verdes, tengo ganas de arriesgarme.

5. creerse mucho

Brag, think too much of oneself. Se cree mucho is said with a derogative tone, as in, he thinks he knows Spanish fluently but really he’s all arrogance.

6. echar la hueva

The opposite of “echarle ganas.” Instead of giving it your all, you give it an egg, the ultimate Mexican symbol of laziness. What am I doing on any given Sunday afternoon? Echando la hueva.

7. comiendo moscas

Literally eating flies, figuratively dazing out. So when someone’s staring off into space while you’re explaining the basis of your thesis project you can call them out with, “Estás comiendo moscas!”

8. Irse el avion

Lose your train of thought. You’re talking about one thing, and suddenly you say, “se me fue el avion:” my plane just took off.

Y ahora, me pinto de colores, damas y caballeros.

Community Connection

If you’re studying Spanish, or just curious about what “que cabrón” means, take a look at our quick and dirty phrasebook of Mexican slang. If, for some reason, this post made you crave tacos, you might want to check out the foodie primer for Mexico.