Gringos, Gaijins, and Haoles: Installment No. 1

I walk into the bodega at 8 am to the cheerful chorus of “WEDO!!!”  I’m feeling all warm inside, like ‘Norm’ from Cheers must have felt.  In addition to “¿Que pasa carnal?”, three or four of my co-workers greet my entrance enthusiastically with this seemingly friendly ‘wedo’ jab.  And because they call the light-skinned guy from Guatemala by the same name, I don’t feel so bad being the only white guy in a workplace that’s 90% Latino.  I stroll as casually (looking) as possible up to Ulises, my closest work buddy, as he speeds around on one of many near-graveyard-quality forqlifs.

Chango!” says he, with a bright smile.

“¿Que pasa?” I reply, proud of my successful execution of a full Spanish greeting.

I then attempt to ask in Spanish ‘what are we loading, where is the clipboard, and what can I do to help?’.  Of course, having never taken a single Spanish class and knowing nothing of Spanish grammar, what came out was something like, “What to go in truck?  Where ‘clipboard’?  My help you?”  Looking back, I can see now what horrible Spanish I was speaking and, perhaps, why chango, or ‘monkey’ as it was told to me, was a popular address for me at two different workplaces.  [Looking at my slang dictionary while writing this, I just now discovered that it also means pussy!!  Doh!!]

‘Wedo’ was explained to me by my co-workers as ‘white skin guy’ and now, years later, I have determined that the proper spelling for it is güero with the dictionary definition being ‘blonde’ but used informally as ‘whitey’. (I have also seen huero in some dictionaries.)  However, güero or güera as simply ‘blonde’ is complicated with several other tidbits I’ve discovered.  My slang dictionary says that güera means ‘prostitute’ in the Caribbean.  Furthermore, güero might also have an additional connotation of ‘gay’ with the idea that ‘that guy that dyes his hair blonde must be a fag’– or so speculates my Spanish teacher who likely heard it in a Puerto Rican context.

I also suspect, against the admonition of friends, that güero is connected in some way to güevón and güeyGüevón being used as an address among male friends roughly equivalent to moron or lazy-ass, in my experience, and güey used more generally as a filler word equivalent to ‘dude’, or ‘man.’

As it played out in the warehouse, it meant ‘whitey’ the same way that ‘gordo’ was employed for fat guys and ‘Chinita’ was universal for Asian women of all backgrounds.  Nevertheless, I appreciated all these new terms of endearment and friendly insults and I found it fun to try to add other words into the mix.  I was called chango, güero, jefe (boss) (when the owners attempted unsuccessfully to promote me to supervisor without my consent), hijo de papi or hijo de Chal (the white owner) (‘daddy’s little baby’), carnal (‘brother’ or as I’d like to think, ‘blood’ as in “what’s up, blood?”), and compañero (companion or comrade).  I, in turn, added that I was nobody’s jefe, or hijo but rather, “Todos somos esclavos” (we are all slaves) and thusly esclavo (slave) became a word we all had fun using together.



  1. todd said,

    June 27, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Guey is a mexican slang term as far as I know. It isn’t common here in Miami amongst Carribean spanish speaking folks, though guero is and is a blanket term for anglos. It might be different too though because the Carribean is filled with fair skinned and hair latinos. Though nicknames like blanco, negro, negrito, etc., are omnipresent.

  2. MK said,

    July 10, 2009 at 4:06 am

    I used to make the Latino messengers laugh by yelling “pinche gueros” towards annoying white people.

    Also this post reminded me of the “legacy” of Alberto Fujimori, former Japanese-Peruvian presidente of Peru, known as El Chinito.

  3. Brad B said,

    July 11, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I’m afraid guero, guey, and huevon are not related. huevón comes from huevo, egg, and the ending -ón meaning big, or used for pejorative words. As far as I know, though this could be wrong guey comes from buey, which means ox. And guero is a light-skinned person. In Mexico, at least, it’s used for anyone who has a lighter-complexion than average.

  4. ryan said,

    July 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Also, the huevo of huevon refers to testicles.

  5. thedialect said,

    July 14, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Yes, I was told by a co-worker from Michoacan that ‘huevón’ meant lazy insofar as your balls are so big that they drag on the ground and slow you down. (Apologies for being so graphic.)

    I hear you telling me that they aren’t related but I’m not listening. The reason is this: in my recent language studies, albeit brief and shallow so far, I’ve come to the understanding that countless words are linked together through history by their origin and evolution and that if one has a pretty good link, like the set of letters güe or the sound hue (whey) and a common use in insults or terms of address – whitey, fag, whore, lazy ass, dude, etc. – then there’s a pretty good chance that they are distant cousins. I have no evidence for my hunch at this time but I still have hope.

  6. yessiree said,

    July 31, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    You know, if someone calls me “gringo,” or “wedo” or anything else derogatory in a country other than mine, the United States of America, I guess I can deal with it.

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