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Caló: Chisgado

Órale, today’s episode is about the word, chisgado, an adjective that describes a bad state of mind or, better yet, being out of one’s proper mind. It evolved from the Spanish terms, lisiado, which means crippled, and chiflado, which means obsessed or perturbed. Caló mashed the two words together and arrived at a term that describes someone acting out of character in a conceited, overdramatic, or otherwise insufferable way.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Boy’s uncle, Tavo, was back from OJ, where he spent half of his time. Only five years older than Boy, he had had the body of a full-grown man since he was fifteen. His big sister, Boy’s mom, didn’t push him to stay in school. When his friends coaxed him to drop out and go work in the oilfields with them, Tavo quickly complied with his sister’s blessing. 

But Tavo soon caught the bug quitting his job after payday and rushing to OJ to spend it all, like many young men in the Southside. He was often gone for weeks before he came back to start the cycle all over again.

So Boy wasn’t surprised when he came home from school and saw Tavo in the living room after a two week hiatus. 

“Hi, tío. How’d it go?” said Boy.

“A toda madre, great. Back for work again,” said Tavo.

“Same place as before?” asked Boy.

“Nel. Nel. I didn’t like it there because there’s no overtime,” said Tavo.

“When you get here? I didn’t see you when I went out this morning,” said Boy.

“Got here late at night but slept in the backyard until you kids left for school. Watched TV all day and nursed my hangover. I’ll look for work tomorrow,” said Tavo.

“Órale. Watching the novelas? You understand them?” asked Boy.

“Not everything, but I can figure out what’s going on. What I don’t get is why they don’t drink the whisky they pour themselves,” said Tavo.

“What?” asked Boy, not grasping what his uncle was talking about.

“Pos, they always pour drinks, but nobody ever drinks. They just hold them and talk, then somebody gets chisgado and everybody forgets about the drinks,” said Tavo.

Boy thought about it. He remembered drinks being poured. But these scenes usually moved on to something else, like arguing, fighting, or kissing. He couldn’t remember what happened to the drinks. 

“I never noticed the cocktails being left behind,” said Boy.

“Oh, simón, they just leave them. It happened in all the shows I watched today. In one show, a guy got all chisgado right after they poured him a drink and started arguing so bad everybody put down their drink. In another, a guy and a woman poured themselves high balls and didn’t even pick them up because they both got chisgados after somebody called them on the phone. Then this afternoon, a chisgado snuck into a room when everybody had left, picked up one of the drinks and looked at it closely, then put it down without even tasting it,” said Tavo.

Boy opened his mouth but couldn’t say anything.

“Maybe they can’t drink on TV,” said Boy after a long pause.

“Then pour water instead. What a waste,” said Tavo.