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Oscar Rodriguez

Oscar was born and raised in Ojinaga, West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. He has lived in and out of Texas since he graduated from Ector High School in Odessa in the late-1970s, including a couple of years in the 1990s when he lived in Marfa and taught at Sul Ross State University. Oscar is also an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe and an avid researcher of Native history in Texas and New Mexico — specifically in the La Junta region.

  • Órale, the feature of this episode is the term ir de onda. In Spanish, it means depart from or lose the wavelength, as in a connection with a radio station frequency. In Caló, it means to lose sense of direction or the thread of the conversation. You lose the onda when you’re distracted or suddenly something shinier, louder, or more urgent steals your attention.
  • Órale, the feature of this episode is the term por la brava. In Spanish is means by way of the brave woman. In Caló, it means in offense or, translated to the modern vernacular, in your face. When you act against the law, contrary to everybody's warning, or in pursuit of a fight, you do it por la brava. It’s indeed an aggressive term that should not be said—or taken— lightly. Also expressed in Spanglish as, a la brave, the term announces willful defiance and acceptance of the consequences. Vatos who do something a la brave, don’t whine later that they didn’t mean it.
  • Órale, for April, we’re going to talk about how a vato unexpectedly went on a national talk-show tour. Simón, the vato le puso out of the Southside to toriquear on the top TV shows in the country cuz they wanted to hear who fregados he was and what he had to say. So the next four episodes will be about his desmadres on TV.Pos then the featured Caló word in this first episode is vanquetear. It means to exalt oneself, as in exceed or vault over the ordinary. There’s no comparable term in Spanish or English. A close-homonym in Spanish is banqueta, which means sidewalk or walkable edge to a road—nothing close to exalt. In Romaní, there’s a near-synonym, barrequerar, which means to exaggerate. It could be vanquetear is a jumble of both words. Who knows. It could also be vanquetear is unique to Caló.
  • Órale, the feature for this last episode about El Pichirilo is the expression le hubo. It’s abbreviated Spanish for it just was or just happened. In Caló, it means the end of whatever was being talked about. If the topic is a movie, then le hubo refers to the climax. If you’re talking about a low tank of gas, le hubo means you finally burned the last drop. If it’s about somebody’s life, then le hubo refers to death. And so on and so forth. The expression is related to the term la voy hacer (I’m gonna do it), except that it’s already done. It’s the phase that comes after you’ve announced that you’re leaving or disengaging.
  • Órale, the feature for this episode is rajar. In Spanish it means to break or splinter. In Caló it means to cower, give up, or quit the fight. It also means to break a promise. People who commit to something and then don’t follow through are rajones. People who keep their word once they give it even at great cost to themselves, are people who no se rajan. There’s an old saying in this regard that invokes the image of someone who is down to his last breath yet still no se raja: ‘scupo sangre, no rajo.
  • Órale, the feature for this episode is the expression ponerle machín. It’s Spanglish. Its literal translation is “act like a machine.” In Caló, it means to step strong, show your power, or get into something assuredly, masterfully.
  • Órale, we’re going to dedicate the next four episodes to a storied car known as El Pichirilo. There are many more stories about it than four, but we’re gonna tell just the most talked-about ones in terms of a few common and, given it’s about a ramfla, appropriate Caló words.Pichirilo is, then, the featured word for this first episode. It means a man-made object with a personality, unpredictable and, for that reason, troublesome, but ultimately worthy of another chance. A great electronic speaker that seems to struggle through certain genre of music—maybe also talk shows—is a pichirilo. A car that unpredictably has bad days is a pichirilo. There’s neither a similar-sounding nor similar-meaning word in Spanish or English. The closest word in meaning is the slang term, hooptie, which means raggedy car, a vehicle who’s only virtue is that it still runs. There’s a close-sounding word in Romaní, pichirichí, which means joy or pleasure, but there’s no certain proof that it’s the root. The term pichirilo does not apply to human beings. Why? The word in Caló for people who act that way is sonsos, which as we discussed in a past episode, comes from the verb sonsear, which means to wander off.
  • Órale, the Caló word for this last episode of the story about a vato who learned to live with his archenemy is hacer. It’s Spanish for to do, as in to do something. In Caló, hacer is a contraction of hacerla, which adds to the generic action of doing the idea of a la or known end or destination. It implies a purposeful, focused, not generic, action aimed at attaining an end. It could be walking home, picking up a dagger to do the evil deed, or even meeting your death. You can’t hacerla if you’re not somehow heading somewhere in particular. Say, you’re tired or finished with what brought you here and now wanna go now? You tell everybody, la voy hacer, and they’ll understand you’re going home.
  • Órale, the Caló word for this week is cuete. It means rocket in Spanish, as in take a rocket to the moon. In Caló, it means handgun or drunken. Of course, both nuances can all be used in a single sentence, as in they were all cuetes on New Year’s Eve cueteando the stars until the jura came over to check out qué fregados was happening.
  • Órale, I’m continuing with the story I started last week about a vato who finds peace with his mortal enemy. If didn’t hear that episode, know that it ended with the vato, who’s very canjijo, backing up a sura bully named Quique.The feature for the continuing episode is the expression tirar ojo. In Spanish, it means to throw a look or stare somebody down, as in the common English expression, “throw darts.” This term should not be confused with the even more folkloric term dar ojo, which means to put a spell on somebody through a bad look. We’ll cover that in the future. Meanwhile, tirar ojo is a belligerent stare meant to intimidate or communicate ill will. It’s almost like the haka dance of some New Zealand ruby teams, where the players stick out their tongues, bulge their eyes, and contort their faces to project revilement toward their foes. In Caló, that hate and revilement is projected solely through the eyes. You throw everything imaginable through your eyes, like darts, daggers, cinder blocks, or rabid monkeys. If you can’t menace, you have to at least be annoying.