Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Just a little chalado


Órale, we’re going to continue focusing on words that come from the Romaní of Spain, Portugal, France and Latin America. This episode’s feature is chalado. It means to be crazy in both Iberian Romani and Rio Grande Caló. Chalado is both an adjective and a noun. So you can be chalado and a chalado. No problem liking or even befriending a chalado. But you better be en garde should you find yourself navigating a complex or delicate situation with them in the picture. That quirk could lead to a bad result if you’re not careful.

Tita noted she’d been spent three days straight with her unrelenting güero boyfriend. It was now dusk, and they had spent all day in her backyard doing little chores, which she needed an extra hand for. He was very handy, compliant, and cheerful — and above all else, he seemed to get it that not talking was elegant.

“I hate to say it, but I’m getting to like Mr. Güero,” Tita thought.

“He's helpful and puts up with my combat.”

“Let’s start a campfire, Tita. It's cold but not too much. No wind and a near-full moon. We can use those old tree prunings in the alley for the fire,” Mr. Güero said.

“Órale. Why not?” said Tita.

The fire was soon roaring. They sat at opposite ends of the fire, each looking intently into it.

“Tequila?” offered Tita.

“Oooh, no!” Mr. Güero said.

Tita looked up and looked him over intently.

“Pos, I’m gonna have a shot,” said Tita.

“You sure?” Mr. Güero said.

“Of course! You’re only unsure when you’re drinking it for the purpose of getting into a fight,” said Tita as she went to fetch the bottle of Chinacos she’d been working on since the summer.

“Órale. Here’s to the winter, the moon and... the scratcher on the window screen,” said Tita casually.

“Scratcher?” said Mr. Güero surprised.

“That not you, Güero?” Tita asked sarcastically.

“No!” gasped Mr. Güero.

“I know. I know. It happens every now and then,” said Tita.

“You not scared?” asked Mr. Güero.

“Nel. I know who it is,” said Tita.

“Who?” said Mr. Güero.

“A ruquillo chalado, this crazy old man who used to live here. He still lives close by — I don’t know where though. I think he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night thinking he’s gotta get home but forgot his key. So he scratches his ruquita’s window,” said Tita.

Mr. Güero dropped his jaw.

“He’s just a little chalado, not dangerous. If he were, my .45 would rack itself at the sound of the scratching. But it always stays nice and quiet. So I don’t worry,” said Tita smiling.

Mr. Güero, his forehead furrowed, shook his head slowly.

“Yeah, he’s clearly not crazy,” he said.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.