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Mexican Slang and The Curious Case of “Aguas”

Water is such an essential part of life, and -not surprisingly- it is one of the first words you learn in any language. So I’m sure that you already know that the Spanish word for water is agua, but did you know that this word has other meanings? One common denominator of language is slang, and Spanish is no exception. Let’s hear the story of the word “aguas”.

Mexican slang is creative and, for some, too coarse for comfort. So when Mexicans shout “aguas!” you can guarantee they are not talking about water. Literally, this announcement would translate to “waters,” but in this case “aguas” is being used to tell one to be careful or watch out. Someone is issuing a warning! It is kind of like the way English speakers in the United Sates have applied the term “heads up” to situations requiring immediate attention.

The origin of the “aguas” story goes back to the days before there was a modern sewage treatment system in Mexico. People during this time would collect “dirty” water in their home and before tossing it out into the street from their window or door would shout “aguas!” to politely alert any passerby. However, despite this word’s double meaning and being generations removed from this era in their history, this term is still actively used in Mexico today.

So on your next trip to Mexico (or California for that sake), if you ever hear anyone shouting “¡aguas, aguas!”, be sure to look alive and give a quick heads up!

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