Lately, I’ve had an obsession with the Spanish words “Fijese que…”, which roughly translates to “Pay attention that (insert statement/excuse here).”
Why am I so intrigued by this saying? Because there’s no better way in Spanish to get one’s attention as easily. It’s as if you’re saying “Hey you. You better listen to this like you’re life depends on it. Or else.”
Other Nicaraguans take it only slightly less seriously than I do because they’re used to using it 93 times a day.
I have a love-hate relationship with this term. On the one hand, it’s a delightful little transitional phrase to give an underwhelming statement some pizzaz.
Even if you’re saying something like “There’s been no running water all day,” which is no big deal in my large city. If my host grandma were to begin this statement with “Fijese que”, then I’d be more likely to listen in. It makes mundane situations sound more dramatic and enticing.
This reminds me, if you think what you’re saying should be important, even though it’s not, and you forgot to say it at the beginning of a sentence, there’s a solution. Just say “fijese” at the end.
For example, here’s another dramatized situation: “Se fue la luz, fijese (The power’s out, believe it or not).” I’ll still think what you’re saying is more alluring, but the amount of anticipation I’ll have by using it at the end will decrease. It’s a science.
Now, when does “Fijese” make my eyes roll to the back of my head? When people say it before an excuse.
Well, I don’t actually roll my eyes, but I want to. Being emotionally intelligent means adapting your facial expressions to different contexts so you don’t make an ass of yourself.
I’ll explain. Say I’ve spent three hours prepping for my community English class, and none of my five students show up. When I ask a student why they bailed, I’m most likely to hear an excuse along the lines of “Fijese que tuve que hacer un mandado y no andaba saldo para llamarla (Pay attention that I had to run an errand and I didn’t have minutes of my prepaid phone to call you).” This one is a double whammy.
The “fijese” in his context is a fluffy replacement for “I have a lame excuse, but I’m going to soften the blow eloquently and politely.” Saving face and appearing non confrontational is very common.
The “hacer un mandado” just means that A. I didn’t feel coming to class or B. I didn’t have the mental energy to come up with a unique excuse. Why would I? I should just keep it vague to avoid an interrogation.
Finally, the most classic and undeniably convenient of all excuses: I didn’t have minutes on my phone to call or text you. Why would I if I could just stand in front of a café or go to the park and use the wifi there to whatsapp you? Oh, you don’t have a device that supports whatsapp? That’s your problem, fijese.
So, fijese que you should take up this expression as soon as possible , or maybe you already have. It’s a great way to integrate into Nicaraguan culture. It will soon be the term you’ll love and abhor the most.
What’s your most memorable use of the Spanish term “fijese que”? Is there an equivalent in another language?
Featured image taken in Esteli, Nicaragua, by Erica Saldivar.