How would you feel if you were in another country and came across a restaurant by the name of, say, “Fucking Hamburgers”?
That’s the question that some folks have about the Pinches Tacos joint planned for the Downtown Container Park. Pinches Tacos is a popular chain in California, with four restaurants, and another in Alabama.
But the word “pinche” is potentially problematic. It is commonly used as a somewhat insulting way to add emphasis to things. The word is an old one in Mexico, originally referring to a cook’s assistant — especially slightly slow or stupid help, according to online sources.
Over the years it has changed to become an all-purpose negative, used for emphasis. So it’s not exactly “fucking,” although depending on context, that is how it is often translated.
“You know, pinches is a word that is used, can be used, in many different ways,” says Javier Trujillo, a lobbyist and chairman of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. “People may use it humorously. People might use it in other ways. The word itself is condescending.
“It is something that I think some folks in the Hispanic community may object to? Yes, but again, it depends on the context.”
Spanish is an amazingly varied language. Many words even for everyday objects are completely different even in the Americas, and especially in contrast to the mother tongue an ocean away. The insulting or negative connotation seems to be specific to Mexico and Central America. CityLife asked Latin Chamber President Otto Merida, who is of Cuban heritage, if he was offended, and he said he hadn’t heard it used as an insult.
“It could mean different things,” said Sergio Guzman, a College of Southern Nevada instructor. “If you’re a Mexican like myself, pinche is an insult. It can mean something like ‘damned,’ like ‘damned thing.’ If you say it to somebody you’re mad at, that’s one thing.
“But then, pinche could also mean to grab or pinch something. Personally, I wouldn’t be insulted. I don’t think most Mexicans would be offended. And for some other groups it may mean nothing.”
Like many linguistic issues, the meaning of the word depends on both the context and the understanding of the recipient, Guzman said.
However, one downtown businessman, Andres Ramirez of Ramirez Group, said he doesn’t want to see that name on a business in what is supposed to be a family-friendly downtown mall.
“I am offended and I would be opposed to allowing the city to move forward,” Ramirez said Monday.
The restaurant is slated to open in the container park in November. Managers with the company couldn’t be tracked down this week, and a spokeswoman with the Downtown Project, which is building the container park, didn’t return a request for comment.
This is not the first time that a name for a restaurant —specifically a taco joint — has sparked some controversy. Pink Taco, which is a slang term for vagina, didn’t ruffle feathers when it opened in Las Vegas in 1999, but the elected city council of Scottsdale, Ariz., urged the state government to deny the restaurant a liquor license in 2006. That Arizona location closed in 2009, though the Pink Taco is still operating in the Hard Rock Casino.