Caló: You le pones a los wildlife, and I le pongo a los cats

Órale, the term ponerle is the feature of today’s episode. In Spanish it means to add to or put on top of. In Caló it means bet on or prefer something in particular. It can also be used to say leave, as in “I’m going to ponerle” or “you better ponerle” The general idea behind ponerle is that of gambling, where you put your chips down before the roulette wheel spins or the dealer spreads another round, so when somebody le pone, they’re either favoring something or gathering their chips and heading for the door.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Cuito knew it was going to be tough asking his neighbor, Tita, to cooperate with all their neighbors and the county Animal Control officer to deal with the stray cat population in the neighborhood. It was a long-standing problem everybody knew was concentrated around Tita’s house. And it had gotten a lot worse that spring.

“Hey, what a miracle, ese,” Tita said when she swung open the door even as Cuito was still knocking on it.

“Good to see you, carnala,” Cuito said.

“It’s been months since you last came by. Everything de aquellas?” she asked him.

“Pos I was just checking if your fridge was working cuz all the food around your house the cats are eating,” said Cuito. 

“It’s fine. I got all that cheese for the cats, not for me. I only eat fiber, watchas,” said Tita. 

“Oh, pos, why don’t you feed the lizards and the birds instead?” said Cuito.

“Hmm, what for? No you’re feeding them?” said Tita.

“Esa, no you le pones a los natives?” Cuito asked rhetorically.

“Simón, I’m for the natives. And I know you le pones a los wildlife. And yo le pongo a los cats, watchas,” said Tita.

“Pa’qué? Why?” asked Cuito.

“Cuz they don’t even live here, but they protect my house, watchas. Try and get in someday without my permission and see what they do,” said Tita.

“Órale, carnala,” Cuito sighed.

“I was just making sure you were OK,” said Cuito. “You know you can feed the natives for a lot less, esa.”

Tita waited a long time to respond.

“Pos, you le pone a los birds y los bees if you want. Not me!” she said, her tone now indicating she was getting mad.

Looking Cuito in the eye a long moment, she warned, “Vato, the heat of the summer is coming. Better migrate with your birds or ponerle back to your side of the fence and leave my cats alone. If not, hair’s gonna fly, ese.”

Cuito slumped his shoulders and walk back to his house.

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