© 2024 Marfa Public Radio
A 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Lobby Hours: Monday - Friday 10 AM to Noon & 1 PM to 4 PM
For general inquiries: (432) 729-4578
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Caló: Chifla to them that it’s over!

The feature for today’s episode is a key means of communicating in Caló. It's not a word or term, but rather: whistling. It’s relied on almost as much as the most used words or terms in that tongue, like órale and chale. Of course, whistling, isn’t unique to Caló, or for that matter, to any language or culture.

But like the spoken word, Caló has its own way of using whistling to convey ideas and meaning. And there are standard whistled signifiers or codes, comparable to spoken words, that span the spectrum of communication from high compliment to evil curse.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Hanging out at Boy’s garage was coming to an end.

The siege brought on by the incident with the jura at the highway overpass where the chavalada had been getting the passing truckers to honk their horns was ending. Everybody sensed it was going in a different direction now, perhaps even the jura, too. But exactly when it would lift was the question.

Reports about the jura cruising slowly following people were still coming in. But nobody had been apprehended as far as anybody knew. Even so, Boy and his friends hesitated to be the first to step out. 

“Let’s go to the gas station and hand out,” said Boy to his razita in his garage.

“Órale, let’s go,” said Chabelita.

Nobody stood up to be the first to go out.

“Dale,” said one of the boys in the pack.

“What’ll happen if we do?” asked another boy.

“I don’t care anymore,” said Chabelita.

“Then go,” said still another boy.

“Wait. Let’s check. Chabelita, chifla to them — whistle,” said Boy.

“Let Givvy do it. He can whistle a lot louder,” said Chabelita.

“Givvy,” said Boy.

After a long silence, Givvy blew out a long loud tweet.

Somebody a few blocks over blurted in response.

“Ask if they heard anything,” said Boy. 

Givvy trilled a response back.

A staccato whistle was the answer.

“Nothing? Nothing?” asked Boy.

“Sirol, Simon,” answered Givvy.

“Ask if that means the jura is no longer circulating,” said Boy.

He whistled.

A reply came back.

“That’s right? That’s right?” Boy asked.

Givvy nodded in approval.

“Ask them if they’re going to come out,” said Boy.

With a breathy whistle, Givvy asked.

A long long pause in the communication opened. Everybody waited.

Finally, a long energetic siren responded.

Everybody looked at each other.

Boy didn’t hazard a guess this time. 

“What did they say?” asked Boy.

Before he could respond, a repeat message came out, “

It seemed strange to everybody in the garage. They looked at each other in silence. Then turned to Givvy, who hesitated.

“Qué?” said Boy.

“Pos they’re saying you talk too much,” said Givvy.

Everybody looked at each other.

“You want me to respond?” asked Givvy.

“No!” commanded Boy.

“That’ll just start a fight”

“Just chifla we’re going out. Let’s go. It’s over,” said Boy.