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It is a slang with hundred of own words, made up from the popular way of speaking, from the suburbs, the voice of the poor areas.
It is also an exaggerated way of speaking (which includes not pronouncing the s of the words), for what Argentines from Rio de la Plata and the Uruguayans are recognized all over the world. It was and still is a hidden and metaphoric language made up from the dynamic between jails, young people and the working world.
Lunfardo was originated in the nineteenth century by the Italian immigrants of the neighborhood of Palermo in Buenos Aires, but it contains other influences. Sicilian, African, Italian, Aymara, mapuches, Jewish, gypsy-spanish, galician, Quechua, Arabs, guarani, polish, Portuguese, English words and influences mix in the daily use with no conscience of its origin.
Some linguists say that the term “lunfardo” comes form the Italian term “lumbardo” (Lombardo, inhabitant of Lombardia, a region in the north of Italy). With time lunfardo assimilated the cocoliche (that was heard less and less in Buenos Aires in the second half of the twentieth century, probably due to the disappearance of the immigrants from the south of Italy who spoke it).
Many words of the cocoliche today are part of the lunfardo. For example:
- laburar: (italian "lavorar") as synonym of work;
- fiaca: ("fiacca":weakness in Italian); tired, laziness;
- mufa (moho): annoyance, bad luck;
- mina: girl;
- gamba: (leg) someone that helps or have good intentions, it also stands for a hundred pesos;
- gambetear: avoid;
- minga: nothing;
- yeta (from the italian "gettare"): throw, bad luck;
- yira/yiro (go for a walk, go out): street prostitute;
- atenti (attentive): attention;
- salute (cheers in italian);
- cuore (heart in italian): , if someone says i love you de cuore means he loves you with his heart;
- Piantao: crazy (italian);
- Chorro: thief;
- Gil: silly (italian);
- Junar look (gipsy-spanish);
- Chabón: ‘chambón’ (today boy) (spanish);
- Chamuyar: talking in a seductive way (gipsy-spanish);
- Firulete: complicated dance step (galician-french);
- Pilcha: clothes (quechua);
- Papirusa: beautiful woman (pole);
- Pucho: cigar (quechua);