Words have a lot of meaning attached to them. In fact, not only do words hold a literal meaning but the way in which they are said and the context in which they are delivered have a very large impact on the resulting response.
So when it comes to Mexican slang, you should be particularly conscious of when you do and do not use certain words—including one of the most popular slang words pendejo.
Whether you are a Spanish speaker or an English speaker, the word pendejo can get used in both dialects. But it is important to also understand the pendejo meaning so that you can use it appropriately in context and not end up offending anyone.
The Definition of Pendejo
The word pendejo has two largely different meanings. In the most literal definition, the word is referring to “pubic hair”. But the way it is most commonly used in discourse is when it means “an idiot”.
The two definitions are quite vast, which means that you do need to be careful when you choose to use them in your own conversation. Chances are that you have likely heard other Spanish speakers call either a friend or a stranger a pendejo. So how do you know when it is appropriate for you to use it yourself?
To help you determine when to use the word pendejo, we have rounded up the do’s and don’ts so that you avoid any awkward situations.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Pendejo
1. DO use when making fun of a friend
We love our friends. There is a level of comfort established that makes it okay to make fun of them and call them names in a loving way. Calling your friend a pendejo when they literally do something stupid—such as trip over their own two feet—is a great way to make them laugh and make light of the situation.
2. DO NOT use it when talking to your boss
Whether you mean “pubic hair” or “idiot”, using the word pendejo in the workplace and especially in front of your boss should certainly be avoided. This slang word is anything but professional and you can end up really offending your co-workers and your boss. When you do this, you can end up jeopardizing your career at the company and your reputation. It is best to ditch this word when you are going into the office or logging into a Zoom call.
3. DO use in memes
The internet is great for many reasons—with one of the best is the fact that you have access to endless memes that make your whole day a bit better. Not only can you access these memes, but equally find them too. Using the slang word pendejo will work for a variety of memes in which you want to poke fun at a certain situation or person. Who can forget the hilarious meme that made fun of Donald Trump, where he was depicted wearing a sombrero with the word pendejo on it while bragging that his Mexican friends gave it to him as a gift.
4. DO NOT use when in a Spanish-speaking county
If you are a native English speaker and not yet fluent in Spanish, then it is best to avoid using this word when you are visiting a Spanish-speaking destination. Even if you think you have a broad understanding of the language and hear other people around you using the word, the risk of using it incorrectly and offending someone is too high. Rather, stick to the polite Spanish words that you know and save using pendejo for only those that you know really well.
5. DO use when you are cut off in the car
Bad drivers are the worst. But you should never drive angry. Instead of letting your rage build after a driver cuts you off on the highway, call them a pendejo in the safety of your own car and get that frustration out of your system. Screaming the word feels really good and can be very therapeutic at times. Just make sure that the other driver can’t hear you call him that.
6. DO NOT use on a first date
Getting to know someone is a delicate process. When on a first date, you may be wanting to make things feel less awkward by being funny and using slang words. But using pendejo should not be one of them. This is because the risk is equally too high that it will be misinterpreted and get lost in translation. Save yourself any embarrassment or awkwardness and wait until you start really dating before trying to be funny with this word.
When using the word pendejo, keep these six tips in mind so that you can use it in the right context and not embarrass yourself!