After having immersed myself into the Spanish language and slowly getting the grips of Panamanian slang, I started to notice these odd words that sound just too familiar. Years of American occupation have left a mark not only on the Canal landscape but also on the distinct slang of Panama. Hence Panamanian slang holds a wide array of words that initially derived from English and simply have been adapted by Panamanians the way they understood it.
One example would be the suburb Arraijan. It sounds like a perfectly appropriate name for a place in Latin America. Yet actually, the word comes for is the Panamanian adaption for ‘on the right hand’. Once someone has made you aware of it then it does kind of make sense even doesn’t it? Another intriguing word is ‘camaron’. Expect a fancy sea food dinner? Well, you are mistaken. Camaron describes the work of a handy man. Since Americans would ask him to ‘come around’ next Monday, camaron has gradually established itself as a synonym for maintenance work. When Panamanians talk about a ‘char cot’, then they usually try to find a ‘short cut’. ‘yo voy a parkear mi carro’ probably doesn’t require much explanation. But, parkear can also mean to hang out with a friend, who in Panamanian slang is referred to as a ‘fren’. Also, don’t be surprised if guys on the street tell a passing girl that she is ‘pritti’.
If you are interested in speaking like you belong, come by the school and pick up one of our Guidebooks to Panamanian Slang. Our teachers are also happy to teach you phrases that will surely impress the locals with.