Mexican X-plainer: Chingue y Chingue

David Bowles
4 min readJan 11, 2021

One of my favorite things about my dialect of Spanish (Northern Mexican / Mexican American) is an odd construction that emphasizes (often irritating) repetition.

I call it the “chingue y chingue” form, from the common vulgar expression for “riding someone’s ass” / “being fucking annoying.”

The form uses the auxiliary verb “estar” (to be) as well as quasi-auxiliaries like “andar” and “seguir.” But rather than combining with the gerund (a main verb ending in -ando or -iendo, like English -ing) to construct the normal progressive tenses, the auxiliary pairs up with a repeated version of the main verb, ending with -e (at least in my dialect—more on this below).

  • M’ijo estaba cante y cante, bien feliz. (My son was singing away, real happy, literally “was sing and sing”)
  • La niña está llore y llore. (The girl is crying her heart out, literally “is cry and cry.”)
  • Ese güey sigue baile y baile. (That dude keeps on dancing, literally “keeps dance and dance.”)

Some people will assume this is some weird form of the subjunctive (which for verbs ending in -ar takes -e in the singular).

But nope.

Complications. Look at plural subjects—the form doesn’t change:

  • Anduvimos baile y baile toda la noche. (We were dancing with abandon all night long.)
  • Ustedes siempre están trabaje y trabaje. (Y’all are always working your butts off.)

What’s more (in my dialect, at least, more below), the ending is ALWAYS -e. Escribir (write)? “Estaba escribe y escribe.” Comer (eat)? “Estaba come y come.” And so on.

This phenomenon of repeating words or parts of words to signal actual repetition of activity has a name. Reduplication.

Many languages use reduplication, including the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl.

“Hablar” is Spanish for “speak.” In the “chingue y chingue” reduplicative construction, “he speaks a lot” would be “está hable y hable.”

In Nahuatl, the verb is “tlahtoa.” “He speaks a lot” is “tlahtlahtoa,” repeating the first syllable of the base verb form. Reduplication indicates frequency.

Mandarin and Igbo use similar reduplication, as do a host of other languages. The Romance family has many examples. Take Italian, for instance: “Cammina, cammina, o presto o tardi ci…

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David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.