When I first heard the phrase “No mames guey”, I thought it was “Dank Meme” slang for “No memes guy”- somebody who has no memes.
But when I looked into it further, I discovered it’s Mexican slang.
“No mames guey” can either mean “No way!” or “C’mon dude!”.
Whilst it is a Spanish phrase, it’s not one that people would recognise if you went to Spain. It’s origins are in Mexico, where it’s often said by today’s youths.
In this article, I want to talk about where this word comes from, whether a Spaniard would understand it, why you should know about it, and how it came to be part of the English Lexicon.
Just because this is a website about English grammar, doesn’t mean we can’t look at non-English phrases that we use over here.
The literal translation (which is rarely what we mean) is “Don’t suck it, guy”.
If you were to say “don’t suck it”, most people will give you some very odd looks, and have no idea what you’re talking about. Even bilingual people who speak both Spanish and English will laugh at you!
When it comes to idioms, a good rule of thumb is never translate word for word from one language into another. Doing so will just make people confused, and it will be clear that you’re not a native speaker.
In English “no” and “don’t” are two different words. But in Spanish, they are the same word-“no”.
The phrase “No hablo Ingles” is a great thing to say to cold callers and people who stop on the street. Translated into English, it means “I don’t speak English”.
If you have run out of cash, you will say “No tengo dinero”. This can either mean “I have no money” or “I don’t have any money”.
I can imagine that Spanish natives might struggle to learn that we have two words where they would just have one. It’s interesting to think about how English learners might struggle.
The word “mames” wouldn’t make much sense to a Spaniard. This is because it’s a slang term that comes from Mexico. Think of it like how a British person might get confused if an American says “John Hancock” or an American may get confused when Ketchup is called “Tommy K”.
“Mames” means to suck. Even if you are Mexican, it’s a crude term that you probably wouldn’t want to say to your mother or your boss.
Usually, it’s referring to the nipple, but people may interpret it as a part of the male body.
The word “guey” just means “guy”. Although the formal version is “chico”, “guey” isn’t rude or derogatory, so you could get away with saying it to your mother, and maybe even your boss.
In English, we also have more than one word for “man”: man, bloke, fella, dude, geeza.
Using casual terminology can help you to talk to people in a foreign country because you will come across as someone with a good grasp on their language, rather than someone who’s still learning.
If you’re in a professional context, I would stick to “Chico”, but when having a chat with your friends, you could say “guey” instead.
Why do the Americans use it?
If this phrase is Mexican, why is it used in English?
As you’re probably aware, America and Mexico share a border. Because of this, people who were born in Mexico sometimes move to America for either a holiday or to live and work.
Because of the interactions between Americans and Mexicans, certain phrases have managed to find their way into each other’s vocabularies.
Now, thanks to the internet, Americans and Mexicans can talk to one another without ever having to meet face to face. This has sped up the exchange of phrases.
Spanish isn’t the only language that has some words and phrases in our language.
If somebody is the best of the best, you might say they’re the “Creme de la crème”, translated from french as the “cream of the cream”.
When your pasta still has some bite to it, you might say it’s “Al Dente”, Italian for “to the tooth”.
When you make the most of every day, you would say the Latin for seize the day, “Carpe Diem”.
And when you get happy at someone else’s misfortune, you may use the German ” schadenfreude” meaning “malicious joy”.
Spanish beyond Spain
As I’m sure, some of you will be aware, in the past Spain had an empire. They travelled to the Americas and conquered several countries, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.
If you were to do a tour of all the Spanish speaking countries, even though the language is the same, the people would all sound different. Despite having the same language when first conquered, the countries have blended Spanish with their native language and evolved it independently over time.
Some of the differences will include pronunciation, individual words, dialects, and emphasises.
It’s similar to how England, America, and Australia all speak English, but none of them speaks the same English.
Why you should know Mexican slang
Why do you need to know any of this? What’s the point in learning about Mexican slang?
Firstly, you never know. You might one day find yourself in Mexico, either for a holiday or on business. And if you go, you’ll want to be able to speak to the locals.
But also, because Latin music is becoming more and more popular, thanks to singers such as Luis Fonsi, and Cardi B. When you’re listening to their music, you’ll want to be able to have some understanding of what they’re saying.
You might not know the song word for word, but a tiny idea is better than no idea.
“No mames guey” might sound like “No memes guy” but it’s Mexican slang for “No way!” or “C’mon dude”.
Even though Mexico speaks Spanish, their version of Spanish has evolved independently from the language of Spain, so certain words will exist that a Spaniard wouldn’t recognise.
Translated literally, it means “Don’t suck it guy”, but that’s not what it means at all.
Next time you listen to a Latin pop song, you stand a better chance of understanding what the singer is trying to say. Unless it’s Cardi B, good luck understanding her.