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Padre, Madre, Awesome

by Ezequiel Ruiz

The other day a student asked me what "¡Que padre!" means. I replied that there is no translation. It is a colloquial expression. In this case what is translated depends on the intention of the speaker. The expression implies an emotion of amazement. Its equivalent in English might be "great" or "awesome." It depends on the degree of emotion in the expression.

"¡Que padre!" translates literally as "that father." Perhaps in quest of sexual equality, this led my student to ask, "The word "madre" ("mother") is not used for these important exclamations? I answered, "It is used, but again it is a highly colloquial, slang expression." The expression "A toda madre" ("To every mother"), in fact, implies much more emotion than "¡Que padre!" I went on to emphasize that these expressions are very informal. They are not used by all people in all stratas of society. Generally they are the parlance of young people, but you can also hear them from some adults.

To clarify this I offer some examples:

You liked the movie? -
Estuvo padre = It was ok.
¡¡Estuvo a toda madre!! = The movie was awesome !!

How was the party? -
¡Estuvo padre, me divertí! = The party was fine, I had fun!
¡La fiesta se puso a toda madre, me la pase super!! = The party was awesome! So good! I really had fun.

The magic of expressions is to understand the intention and the context. Then you give them your best interpretation according to the culture.

The language is alive. It is there waiting to be deciphered and right there is the magic. That's where learning becomes fun.

My student and I had a good laugh. In this study of formal and colloquial expressions there is a world of learning. It becomes extremely interesting. On many occasions the best you can do is give the closest possible interpretation. There are always things that can not be translated. This is because culture cannot be translated, it can only be explained and occasionally we will fall short in the explanation.

Language is not mathematics, where we can make equations, where this equals that. Language implies culture and culture is subtle and shifting and needs to be lived with the heart as well as the head. Only in this holistic way, only by immersing in the culture will we be able to perceive more broadly the sense and emotions that come along with these cultural expressions. And that will be ¡padrisimo!


Ezequiel Ruiz: I am a Mexican blessed with many experiences both in Mexico and in the USA. I am a dreamer in the sense that I believe in creative human potential. I am a son, brother, cousin and friend, perhaps yours. Extend your hand and the conversation will begin.

I am an admirer of the Spanish and English languages. My job for some time has been to teach both languages. I enjoy being surprised by the living language and seeking secrets in the wonder of expression.


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