The Caló Language – A Symbol Beyond Flamenco

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Caló is the endangered gypsy language spoken in Spain. It was born from the Romani lexicon and morphosyntax of Romance languages. Find out more with iScribo.

Caló, or gypsy language, grew out of Romani and some Romance languages such as Spanish and Catalan between the 15th and 18th centuries. Caló is represented as the Romani adapting itself to Spanish, which in turn descends from Sanskrit, although not officially.

Caló is nowadays in disuse, only a few thousand people and some flamenco singers keep the habit of using and propagating this language. Languages are a social issue and Caló is no exception. The historical, cultural and, above all, political reasons are vital to understanding the influence of languages on society.

At iScribo, we pay homage to a real language that has influenced Spanish over the centuries.

Caló Words in Spanish

There are many words and expressions that we use in Spanish that come directly from Caló. Some of them are:

Pirarse

It is a colloquial way of saying “to go away” and has a variant, darse el piro. Not to be confused with pirado/a, which is a colloquial way of saying that someone is crazy and has nothing to do with it.

Me piro, hasta mañana.

(I’m going now, see you tomorrow.)

Lache

It is a colloquial form to express that someone is shy and it is used with the verb dar.

No voy a ir a tu casa, me da lache.

(I’m not going to go to your house, I’m shy.)

Nanay

It indicates an outright refusal.

Nanay. ¡Que no pienso ir!

(No. There is no way I’m going!)

Paripé

It’s used more than you think, it has even made the leap into the cultured language. It means “to pretend” but with a dramatic vibe that Spanish love.

No llores más, todo esto es un paripé.

Don’t cry anymore, you are faking it.

Caló Language in Flamenco

Flamenco artists naturally wave the flag of Caló. Some of those who have released albums in Caló are La Chiqui de Jerez with Sinar Caló Sinela un Pochibo (El orgullo de ser gitano, or The Pride of Being Gipsy in English), which is a compilation of her career. Remedios Amaya also sang in Caló, which, by the way, represented Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1983.

There is a flamenco palo, a style of dancing within flamenco, called debla. It is Caló and means “goddess”.

Expand your knowledge of Caló

Knowledge can fill a room but takes up no space. Delve a little deeper into the Caló language through flamenco or with books like Penar Ocono by José Heredia Maya. It is worth learning a little more about Spanish culture and the languages that enrich Spanish. And don’t forget to use iScribo’s spelling and grammar checker to improve the level of your Spanish documents.

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