A non-exhaustive list of the “funny” words you might encounter in my blog and my version of what they mean. Wikipedia or wherever you normally look things up might disagree with some of them. Where there a two versions – thingo/thinga – they are the male and female versions respectively.

cabeceo – the non-verbal process by which offers to dance are made and accepted. After a leader and follower have held eye contact, signalling interest in dancing together, he invites her to dance by nodding or raising an eyebrow or mouthing “Bailas?”. If she accepts she nods and the deal is done. When a leader and follower complete a cabeceo they are contracting to dance with each other for the duration of the current tanda. Or in places where they don’t play the music in tandas, until one or the other has had enough (usually 2 to 4 tracks).

castellanoa silly language where words are overloaded and mean different things depending on context, there are multiple words for the same thing, there are more irregularities, exceptions and verb tenses than you can shake a stick at, with inconsistent and incomplete use of gender the variety of Spanish they speak in Buenos Aires and Argentina.

chacaréra – Argentinian folk dance. At many milongas they play a chaceréra tanda about half to two thirds of the way through the milonga.

códigos – the codes or rules of behaviour to be followed at a milonga.

colectivo – bus.

Comme il Faut – probably the best known brand of tango shoes for women. Abbreviated to CIF or CiF.

cortina – musical interlude between tandas. You’re expected to clear the dance floor between tandas, even if you plan on dancing the next tanda with the same partner. The cortina music is normally distinct enough from tango music to be obvious.

dulce de leche – milk caramel.

empanada – vegetable or meat filled pastry.

entrada – entrance fee.

extranjero/extranjera – foreigner.

factura – a pastry, quite likely to be smothered in or contain dulce de leche.

medialuna – croissant shaped factura.

milonga – refers to 2 separate things

  • music with a (usually quick) 1-2-1-2 rhythm and the dance you do to it
  • a social dance event where people dance tango. This is not a practice session; you shouldn’t be trying out new moves on unsuspecting partners. The music will probably be played in tandas with cortina breaks. You should observe the códigos.

milonguero/milonguera – somewhat contentious! I use it to refer to a porteño/porteña over about 50 years of age who has danced tango in the Buenos Aires milongas for pretty much their whole adult life.

mirada – the looking at the person you want to dance with part of the cabeceo.

mozo/moza – waiter/waitress.

panaderia – bakery.

pista – dance floor.

porteño/porteña – a native of Buenos Aires.

practíca – a dance event where you can practice all your latest moves. The music probably won’t be organised into tandas and observance of the códigos is more relaxed.

propina – tip.

subte – subway.

tanda – a group of 3 vals or 3 milonga or 4 tango tracks which are played back to back. It is normal to dance with the same partner from whichever point in the tanda you step onto the dance floor until the end of that tanda. All the tracks in a tanda are usually from the same orchestra. There are of course exceptions. Sometimes or in some places the tandas are longer/shorter or variable in length or mix orchestras. Good DJs don’t confuse the dancers this way.

tango – Argentine tango. Not to be confused with ballroom tango. This is a glossary so I’m glossing over the differences of milonguero, stage, salon, nuevo etc. Also a musical style to which you dance tango. Also an umbrella term for the tango, milonga and vals styles to which you dance at a milonga. Are you confused yet?

tango god – one of the oldest, most well known, most respected milongueros. Has probably been dancing tango longer than I’ve been alive and has forgotten more about it than I’ll ever know.

tanguero/tanguera – a committed tango dancer.

vals – music with a 1-2-3-1-2-3 waltz rhythm and the dance you do it.

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