By Marco Lovón

Translation made from “Día de los Peruanismos”:

One of the ways to know that we are Peruvians is by listening to us use Peruvian expressions. A Peruvian can be recognized by using voices like trome ‘the best’, cocho ‘old’, cachina ‘place where used things are sold’, roche ‘shame’, paltearse ‘to be ashamed’, pata ‘friend’, templado ‘in love’, mermelero ‘briber, who is inclined to receive bribes in exchange for favoring or perjuring someone, especially a journalist’, mecer ‘to postpone the fulfillment of obligations or commitments’ or ‘to dismiss someone’, serruchar ‘to act generally in secret to detract from someone’s prestige or to take away a job or a sentimental partner’, atorrancia ‘cynicism, shamelessness’, pituco ‘upper class person’ and ‘elegant or apparent person or place’, caviar ‘well-off politician with leftist ideologies’, degustadora ‘woman who invites to taste products, especially in supermarkets’, calancas ‘skinny and long legs’, cachuelo ‘low-paying casual work’. We are recognized by our ways of speaking, particularly by our lexicon, both inside and outside the country. Migrants arriving in the country identify us linguistically and some learn Peruvianisms in their contact and coexistence with Peruvians. Currently, the Venezuelan presence in the country identifies Peruvian words and ways of speaking, they assimilate them or, with humor, make references to them. Being in Peru implies knowing the voices and linguistic uses.

Peruvians reaffirm our identification when we defend words we consider our own. Those who observe us tell us that only in Peru does pendejo mean ‘alive’, that causa refers both to a meal and a friend, that anticucho is used for a meal and to allude to a criminal record, that chambero refers to a hard-working person or chambón to a heavy activity or task. Peruvians recognize their voices as their own in oral and written speech, including virtual speech.

In relation to linguistic creativity, it should be emphasized that the native languages have contributed to the particularity of Peruvian Spanish and have given way to the appearance of Peruvianisms. Words such as olluquito, isaño, chirimoya, cuy, guanaco, huaylarsh, chala, pongo, canchita, pucho, puquio have been incorporated into the vocabulary of Peruvians, coming from semantic fields such as flora, fauna, dances, geography and other varied cultural aspects. That is, they have entered, in an adopted form, without modifications, or adapted, with modifications, by means of lexical borrowings from Andean languages (Cerrón-Palomino, 2013), such as from Puquina, with the word inca; from Quechua, with the term llanque ‘ojota’, or from Aymara, with the voices apacheta and amauta. From Quechua, many words have penetrated into Peruvian Spanish: apu, ayahuasca, cancha, cushma, huaico, tara, tarwi, pampa, tócosh (Calvo, 2014). And derivations have been fostered from lexical bases: ayahuasquero (from ayahuasca) ‘shaman’, cuyero (from cuy) ‘dedicated to raising guinea pigs’, pampera (from pampa) ‘woman of light life, who can exercise prostitution in public or open places’. From other languages such as the extinct and Amazonian languages we have sicán ‘temple’ (from Mochica), tari ‘clothing’ (from Shipibo), pituca ‘tuber’ (from Asháninka). Many words have claimed their place through scopes and observations to the work done in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, particularly when the geographical mark Peru is unjustly omitted (Baldoceda Espinoza, 2016).

The Afro-Peruvian presence has also been manifested in the registration of Peruvian afronegrismos (Romero, 1988), such as bichía ‘night bird’, cancato ‘wild bean’, chimpuca ‘water with lemon, chancaca and cookies’, chipo ‘hut’, pacuato ‘aromatic herb’, pichingo ‘small bird’ (Carazas Salcedo, 2018).

Peruvian has also adapted words from foreign languages and incorporated them into its repertoire. Some of them are panetón for ‘bun of candied fruits and raisins’ (from Italian panettone), faite for ‘crook’ (from English figther), luquear for ‘to look’ (from English look). So many others have also been adopted such as wifi for ‘connection’ (from English), táper for ‘plastic container’ (from English), tofi ‘candy treat’ (from English), delivery ‘home delivery service’ (from English), pusanga ‘remedy’ (from Portuguese), chifa ‘restaurant’ (from Chinese). In food you find words like croissant, ciabatta, cinnamon roll, taipá, wantán, min pao, spaghetti, al dente, which is used naturally.

For some years now, I have been promoting the celebration of the Peruvian Idioms Day. Like the National Pisco Day (fourth Sunday of July), the National Pisco Sour Day (first Saturday of February), the National Cuy Day (second Friday of October), the National Cebiche Day (June 28), the Barbecued Chicken Day (third Sunday of July), etc., as they are promoted in the country, the establishment of the Peruvian Peruvian Idioms Day would reinforce the Peruvian identity and, specifically, commemorate the Peruvian identity, As they are promoted in the country, the establishment of the Peruvian Idioms Day would reinforce the Peruvian identity and, specifically, it would commemorate the Peruvian idioms we use, as well as the Peruvian Spanish that identifies us, since it is a day to invoke our words and even our ways of speaking. Usually, in diverse societies, celebrations remember cultural matters such as goods or material productions; however, other aspects, such as language, are also possible to be remembered. Linguistic memory is part of cultural memory. According to Álvarez Vita (2015), “Peru must project its culture and language is an essential component of it” (para. 4). With good reason, for example, in Peru we celebrate the Day of Native Languages every May 27 to recognize the use, preservation, development, recovery, promotion and dissemination of all the native languages of Peru and their speakers (Lovón, 2018).

Peruanismos are words, turns of phrase or expressions created and used by Peruvians. There are archaic or historical Peruanisms, novel or neologisms, disappeared or current. Many have been attested or registered by specialists and lexicographers of high stature such as Martha Hildebrandt (1994), Miguel Ángel Ugarte Chamorro (1997) or Juan Álvarez Vita (2009), preceded by Juan de Arona (1883/1975) and Ricardo Palma (1896, 1903), as well as Guillermo Bendezú Neyra (1977) and José Bonilla Amado (1957). Currently, there is the Diccionario de peruanismos of the Academia Peruana de la Lengua (APL) (2016) and its online version (2022). Various publications include studies by Luis Jaime Cisneros (1998), Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino (2008), Enrique Carrión Ordóñez (1977, 1978, 1978, 1981, 1997), as well as the contributions of regionalists Juan Guillermo Carpio Muñoz (1999) with arequipeñismos, and Esteban Puig Tarrats (2007) and Carlos Robles Rázuri (2012) with piuranismos. The lexicographic and linguistic studies allow us to see local, regional, national and transnational uses. We recognize that there are words that we share with neighboring countries, many of which were part of the viceroyalty of Peru or the Inca Empire, so it is easy to find similar voices, meanings and uses. We share words such as cancha, aillu, aini, amaru, chupe, sayar, soroche, quincha, suertero or terramoza, for example. And others have spread worldwide, such as the lexical cases of the tuber potato, the rodent guinea pig, as well as the auquenids alpaca, vicuña or llama.

Some years ago, in personal conversations with the diplomat Juan Alvarez Vita, we coincided in promoting the importance of Peruvianisms. I commented that it was pertinent to propose the celebration of the Peruvian Idioms Day and he considered the idea and its creation with great interest. The Ricardo Palma Foundation had raised the same project and by then it had been agreed to invite the Peruvian Academy of Language to jointly celebrate the Day of Peruanisms, a ceremony that took place at the Ricardo Palma House Museum on August 17, 2017. Thus the Ricardo Palma Foundation, chaired by Ambassador Juan Alvarez Vita, approved the proposal. Socially, I consider that the celebration deserves to be promoted and disseminated so that it gains greater value and, in this way, Peruvians identify even more with its vocabulary.

Such a day would allow us to know the linguistic uses and customs, identify the voices used in the different communicative spaces, remember the lexicographic production and, above all, remember that we are Peruvians by our words, by the different ways of speaking and by the respect we have to interact and communicate among the speakers of Peruvian Spanish free of discrimination. Peruvianisms allow us to see that within the group of Americanisms and Hispanisms there is a unique Peruvian contribution.

The Peruvian Academy of Language can contribute to reinforce its celebration. Since it began its functions on August 30, 1887 in Lima, it has given guidelines on linguistic uses, resolving queries, promoting events in which language and literature professionals participate, publishing important humanistic works in relation to Peruvianisms. Together with the Foundation, focused on palm studies, the Academy represents one of the institutions that has been collaborating with the academic community and society.

Peruvianisms deserve to be celebrated; having a day for them allows us to think about them and be proud of them. A society is alive because of its speakers. Remembering this date promotes academic meetings, cultural events, editorial productions, mobility in social networks, connections between Peruvians living in the country and Peruvians living abroad, valuing the contribution of languages and native peoples, as Alberto Escobar (1978) emphasized about thinking of ourselves as a multilingual country.




How to cite this text?

Lovón, M. (2022). Día de los Peruanismos. Boletín de la Academia Peruana de la Lengua72(72).


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