Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

Váyase largo al cipote

The Guardian reports that ten days ago Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez told British Prime Minister Tony Blair to “go to hell.” It also reports that Spanish words, too, saying they have no direct translation: “váyase largo al cipote.”

To anyone who knows both languages, the English is obviously milder than the Spanish. I was going to tease out a better translation, but Simon Jeffery has already tried to do that on the Guardian’s blog.

In short, Jeffery says it translates as “get stuffed” or “fuck off.” This is based on translations of the word cipote, which has several. In the dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spain (which does not permit direct linking to entries), one of them is marked specific to Venezuela: para insultar a alguien sin nombrarlo, that is, to insult someone without naming them. As Jeffrey points out, the dictionary gives several other meanings, one marked as vulgar: miembro viril, the organ of virility, or the penis.

Reuters has it slightly different, not only in spelling, but in translation: “¡Váyase al zipote (diablo)!” The dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spain does not have zipote, nor do any of the Spanish dictionaries I have at home. Reuters has chosen to translate it as “devil.”

Columbian newspaper El Tiempo (which has already taken the story offline), on the other hand, has chosen to translate it as “al carajo,” which also means “to the penis.”

So I’d say “go to hell” is a safe but not accurate translation. It’s not offensive nor forceful enough. “Get stuffed” is not that common in North America, though it’s widely understood. Perhaps “fuck off” or “go fuck yourself” are better, though few newspapers permit the word “fuck” in their pages. They might permit “go screw yourself” or “screw you.” Or even “go pound sand (up your ass),” which I think is probably also a better translation than “go to hell.”

author avatar
Grant Barrett