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Costa Ricans use animals quite a bit in their expressions. The tiger is one of them. Pa’l Tigre means not feeling well, feeling sick, or not having done well.
Estoy pa’l tigre = I feel terrible. Something that is not usable anymore, out of order, esta “pa’l tigre”.
Esta máquina esta pa’l tigre. Me fue pa’l tigre en el examen.
Christopher Howard explains pa’l tigre as to be on its last legs.
It is also customary to shorten “para el” into “pa’l”. Voy pa’l cine = I am going to the movies.
You probably already knew that “tigre” means tiger in English, although it’s pronounced teegre.
Let’s look at some other animals Ticos like to use in their expressions.
- Ese mae es un bicho (bug, critter) – When it’s a female, you say “esa chica es una bicha”. This can be used to express very different things: The guy is a whiz – The girl is a nasty piece of work
- A bicho raro – is a weirdo
- Comer como puerco o como cerdo – eating like a pig
- Ese carajo es un lagarto (lizard) – a person who is not satisfied with a certain amount (money, food) and always wants more
- Esa persona es una rata (rat) – that person is a swine, he is a liar, a traitor
- No sea sapo (toad) – Don’t be such a telltale
- Agua de sapo (toad) – liquor made of sugar cane
- Ella se hace la chancha (female pig) – she pretends not to understand or to hear
- Lo agarraron de chancho (male pig) – they are kidding him
- Me deben un tucán (toucan) – they owe me 5,000 colones
- Ah la perica (parakeet) – oh shit
- Llegar a la hora ‘el burro (donkey) – arriving late
- Amarrar el perro (dog) – cheating someone out of his money
- Que carajo más bestia (beast) – that guy is a fool
- Mañana tengo un camarón (shrimp) – tomorrow I have an odd job
- El esta chiva (female goat) – He is really mad
- Estar de pocas pulgas (fleas) – to be in a bad mood
- Gallo (rooster) pinto – rice and beans
- Gallo (rooster) tapado – covered lottery ticket (so the buyer doesn’t now which number it is)
- Gato (cat) encerrado – something weird is going on, there is more than meets the eye
- Dar gato (cat) por liebre (hare) – bait and switch
- Por si las moscas (flies) – just in case
Thanks again to Alf Giebler for allowing me to use his book A lo Tico and Christopher Howard for the use of the Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish.
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