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When Things Don't Matter

*Note that some strong language is discussed, so sensitive readers may wish to skip this lesson.

When something is importante (important), people usually care about it. In Spanish, the simplest way to say that one doesn’t care about something is to negate the verb importar (to care), as Victoria does when Federico asks her how she's feeling:

Que ya no me importa nada, Federico.
That I don't care about anything now, Federico.
Caption 18,
Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta, Part 4

However, it’s possible—and very common—to use the verb importar without negation to express a lack of caring. The trick is to add to me importa (or me interesa) to a noun that conveys the idea of something of negligible value. Comino, pepino, cacahuate, and bledo are a few examples of such nouns. Let’s learn how to actually use them.

Semillas de comino (cumin seeds) are so minuscule that they are close to nothing:

Perdés el tiempo, querido. Absolutamente. Porque me interesa un comino su candidatura.
You're wasting your time, darling. Absolutely. Because I don't care a fig about his nomination.
Caption 28,
Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 5

Using pepino (cucumber) or cacahuate (peanut) is also very common:

¡Se lo dije al mayordomo, me importa un pepino!
I told the butler, I don't give a damn!
Caption 25, 
 Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 11

Another common word to use is bledo, or pigweed. For the Spanish, this plant, although edible, was considered flavorless. They brought the expression over with them to Latin America (where in fact the plant and its seeds have been consumed since pre-Hispanic times, for their nutritional and medicinal properties).

¡Me importan un bledo los quinientos mangos!
I don’t give a whit about the five hundred bucks!
Caption 33,
Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 3

If you want to add extra emphasis you can use the interjection carajo ("damn" or "hell").

¿Y a vos qué carajo te importa?
And to you, what the hell does it matter?
Caption 14,
Yago - 2 El puma - Part 2

In fact, you can use any bad word you can come up with. That includes all the really vulgar ones, but here are two examples that are not so offensive:


¿A mí qué diablos me importa su vida?
What the hell does your life matter to me?
Caption 5, 
El Ausente - Acto 2 - Part 8

Y no por ellos que me importan un diablo.
And not because of them who don't matter a damn to me.

Caption 4, 
El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 8

Finally, we want to introduce you to a curious expression: me vale. It’s only used in Mexico and it’s interesting because it’s quite contradictory. While its literal meaning would be something like “I care” it actually means the exact opposite. This happens because, in Mexico, the verb valer (to be worth) can replace the verb importar (to care) in phrases such as the ones mentioned before. So me vale un pepinome vale un comino, etc. are all very common. At some point, Mexicans just shortened these phrases to me vale:

Después de eso me vale si muero
After that I don't care if I die
Caption 30,
Los Originales de San Juan - Ojala La Vida Me Alcance

The common—and very contradictory—Mexican phrase me vale madres belongs to this group. It means “I don’t give a damn about it!” but its literal meaning is something like “It’s worth what my mother is worth to me.” Quite puzzling, right? Especially given the proverbial Mexican affection for their mothers!

We hope you have enjoyed this lesson!

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