This twelve-minute YouTube clip (from Mun2tv—”mundos tv,” get it?) is one of the best filmed accounts of language use I’ve seen, and it’s got Edward James Olmos and Gloria Trevi to boot. The first half is about naco ‘common, vulgar, tacky (person)” or ‘real Mexican,’ depending on your point of view, and the second half about pocho ‘person of Mexican descent perceived as identified with the U.S. rather than Mexico.’ Both terms are offensive unless used as self-identification; it’s great to hear ordinary people parsing the subtleties of how class intersects with language, and especially great to hear people proudly claiming their own identity. I especially love the closing line: “Yeah, I’m a pocho, y qué? or: y what?” Via MetaFilter, where commenter Joakim Ziegler points out:

I’ve heard people use just plain “indio” as a synonym for “naco”, even as an adjective (adjectives and noun tend to have fluent boundaries in Spanish), so people say “¡Qué indio!”. Which I find incredibly offensive.

Oh, and there’s also the brief, hilarious “How to Curse Like a Mexican.”


  1. Too bad there’s no etymology in the vid. I wonder if “pocho” derives somehow from “posh”.

  2. Jeffry House says

    “Pocho” means “rotten” when speaking of beans, ie. “Frijol pocho”. So I doubt it has anything to do with “posh”.

  3. Trond Engen says

    Hey, we’re touching on Fr. pocher again!

  4. The Spanish Academy dictionary says:
    -“Pocho”, besides off-color, peaky, and rotten, is also the mexicanism mentioned in the post.
    -“Naco”, maybe from “totonaco” (a big Mexican tribu that lives in gulf coast), is Indian, Native.

  5. Totonacos is also a traditional Mexican street circus act, where the performers (known as Voladores) are swinging upside down, suspended from tall poles by their legs, and play flutes in their flight. Named after a ritual of Papantla or Totonaco Native Mexicans.

  6. Purely coincidence, I’m sure, but Irish English has (k)nacker, “a pejorative word for a person of lower social class”, probably derived from the word “knacker”, “person who disposes of worn-out horses” being used for members of the Irish Traveller community.

  7. Pocho might not mean “posh”, but usually when I hear chilangos talking about nacos, they are contrasted with fresas, which is the colloquial word for “snob” in Mexico.
    (I’m not sure what the connection between literal strawberries and metaphorical snobs in though.)

  8. Yes, the first part of the video, dealing with naco, has a lot about fresa as well.

  9. John Woldemar Cowan says
  10. Soy indio! … Soy judeo!

    Properly judío. (Wonderful story!) Reminds me of a graffito I saw about 40 years ago on a wall in San Diego, in elaborate style, which puzzled me–was the artist really EL JUDIO?–till I realized it read EL INDIO.

  11. Fixed, thanks!

  12. Lars Mathiesen says

    Hej, John, I tried to use your AIM link from your blog, but my browser couldn’t find the app…

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