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The Versatile Ending that Transforms Words in Spanish

A versatile Mexican Spanish suffix used as a kind of superlative for nouns can create a word that almost does the work of an entire sentence

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Among its versatile means, Mexican Spanish has a suffix —”azo“— which is used as a kind of superlative for nouns, but also when appended to certain nouns, creates a word that almost does the work of an entire sentence.

Turning the common in to the extraordinary

In its superlative sense, “azo” makes common things uncommon: carrazo (carro) is a very expensive, or souped up car; tipazo (tipo) is a very nice, or amiable, or helpful guy; and of course, golazo is a great goal—even if it counts the same toward the score as an ordinary, run-of-the mill goal.

Superlative endings can be added to practically any noun and some take “ón” or “ona” to do this.  So casona is a large house or  mansion, “programón” a brilliant program, or a flop if used sarcastically.

Some endings can describe an entire action

With some nouns —not too many— either suffix could be used, the only rule being whether or not it sounds right.

But the ending “azo” can also mean a blow or other action effected by means of whatever noun it’s added to.

The grammatical implications in this case are less clear but the meanings once you get used to hearing it are easy enough to follow.

Some examples

  • Any increase in gasoline prices, in a country where previous decades of state control of oil had led to peculiar views about the the commercial properties of fuel, is known as a “gasolinazo“—a blow delivered by means of gasoline prices.
  • An untimely “sponsored” newspaper article that uncovers some untoward business deal or seeks to sully the reputation of an otherwise squeaky clean politician is known as a “periodicazo” (from periódico for newspaper).  Swatting a fly with a rolled up paper is a different kind of periodicazo.
  • Carpetazo (carpeta—clip folder) expresses the squirreling away of a sticky matter to be dealt with later—later being an open-ended term tending toward infinity.
  • The ending “azo” can also refer to a major crash or accident: trenazo, camionazo, or avionazo, for example.

Post script: The initial idea for this article came from some comments made by a colleague: plagiazo?

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