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Did you hear about the Spanish-speaking magician? He said “for my next trick, I will disappear on the count of three. Uno, dos -” but then he vanished without a tres.
Okay, that one isn't going to win me any comedy prizes. To redeem myself, I’ll share some funny jokes in Spanish. As well as making you laugh (maybe), they might help with your Spanish learning, and teach you some new words.
Jokes in Spanish are known as chistes, although the word “joke” could also be translated as broma. The latter is more like a practical joke or a prank that you play on someone, while the former is a witty line or story that you tell to someone. In this article I'll list a few chistes; if you’re interested in learning some bromas, I’ll leave that up to you.
Obviously, there are many funny Spanish jokes where the humour doesn’t come from wordplay or a pun, meaning they could easily be translated into English and you’d still understand the punchline (or in fact you might have already heard it in English).
For our purposes here I’ll stick with the Spanish jokes that are harder to translate.
1 – Lazy Cows
Cuáles son las vacas más perezosas? Vacaciones!
“What’s the laziest type of cow? A vacation!”
This is a great example of a pun-based joke that makes absolutely no sense when translated. It’s a play on the fact that the word vaca, meaning “cow”, is the same as the first two syllables of vacación, meaning “vacation”. So “vaca-ciones” are like lazy cows, because they always go on vacations… get it? Okay, maybe not the funniest chiste ever, but moving on…
2 – Exercising Bees
¿Qué hace una abeja en el gimnasio? Zumba!
“What does a bee do in the gym? Zumba!”
To understand this, you must know that the verb zumbar means “to buzz”, i.e. the noise that bees make. And in many gyms you can work out with the popular dance fitness program Zumba™. So what does a bee do in the gym? Why, he zumbas of course!
Zumba was invented by a Colombian, so after hearing this joke I was curious whether it was a deliberate choice that the name means “buzz”. As it turns out, the name isn’t supposed to mean anything, it was just chosen because it sounds cool. So now I know.
3 – An Apple at the Bus Stop?
Una manzana está esperando el autobús. Llega una banana y le pregunta:
«¿Hace mucho que usted espera?»
Y la manzana responde:
«No, yo siempre fui manzana.»
“An apple is waiting at the bus stop. A banana arrives and asks him:
“‘Have you been waiting here for very long?’
“And the apple replies:
“‘No, I’ve always been an apple.’”
The pun here is on the word espera – “you wait” – which sounds like “es pera”, “you are (a) pear”. (These verbs are in the third-person form, but here they mean “you” because the banana is addressing the apple with the polite pronoun “usted”.)
So the banana has asked the apple how long he’s been waiting, but the apple thinks that he’s been asked “have you been a pear for very long?”
Good luck translating that one into English and making people laugh!
4 – Two Nuns
Era un grupo de chicos sentados en el banco y pasan 2 monjas. Dice uno «Las conozco, una tiene una heladería y otra tiene una joyería.» «¿Cómo sabes tú eso?» «Porque una es Sor Bete, y la otra Sor Tija.»
Some boys were sitting on a bench when two nuns walked past. One boy said, “I know them, one of them runs an ice cream shop and the other one runs a jeweller’s.” “How do you know that?” “Because one of them is Sister Bete, and the other one is Sister Tija.”
Nuns in English have the title “Sister”, while in Spanish it’s “Sor”, not to be confused with “hermana”, which is the literal term for a female sibling. The observant boy in our story knows that the nuns names are Sister “Bete” and Sister “Tija”, or in other words, sorbete (sorbet) and sortija (ring). So of course sorbete makes ice cream for a living and sortija makes jewellery.
Another version of this joke involves Sor Teo (sorteo – raffle), who’s always very lucky, and Sor Presa (sorpresa – surprise) – who often arrives unexpected.
5 – Two Cubans and Santa
Había una vez en Cuba dos Cubanos y uno le preguntó al otro:
– Oye chaval ¿tú sabes quién es Santa Claus?
Y el otro respondió:
– Pue papá noel
Y él respondió:
– Pue mamá tampoco
There were two Cubans in Cuba and one said to the other:
“Hey dude, do you know who Santa Claus is?”
“Well, he’s Father Christmas.”
“Well, he’s not mother either.”
This one is a lighthearted jab at the way Cuban people speak, since they often drop the “s” sound when it’s at the end of a word. When one Cuban says “Papa Noel”, Father Christmas, the other thinks he said papa no é, the Cuban way of pronouncing “papa no es” (he/she/it’s not dad.) So the second Cuban replies to say that it’s not mother either.
By the way, “pue”, written above, is not a real (written) word, but a a phonetic way of writing how most Cubans would pronounce the word “pues”, which means “well”.
6 – This Heater is a Rip-Off!
– ¿Cuánto cuesta esta estufa?
– Cinco mil dólares
– Pero, oiga, ¡esto es una estafa!
– No, señor, esto es una estufa
How much does this heater cost?
Five thousand dollars.
Wow, this thing is a rip-off!
No, sir, this is a heater.
This one is easy to understand. The Spanish word estufa, meaning “heater” (or “stove” in some places like Mexico), sounds similar to estafa, meaning a swindle, scam, or rip-off. So when our shopper hears how expensive the estufa is, he declares it to be an estafa. Hilarity ensues?
7 – Little Jaime and the Solar System
– Jaimito, ¿qué planeta va después de Marte?
Jaime, what planet is after Mars?
Jaimito – “little Jaime” – is another well-known character in Spanish comedy. He’s similar to “Little Johnny”, subject of many hilarious jokes in English. Jaimito and Little Johnny are both mischievous young boys known for saying cheeky, witty, and risqué things to grown-ups, usually their teachers.
Like “Little Johnny jokes” in English, many Jaimito jokes are rather rude, but above I’ve given a more family-friendly one. Jaimito’s teacher asks him which planet in the solar system comes after Marte, the planet Mars, which sounds like martes, Tuesday. And Wednesday is miércoles. So if Marte sounds like “martes” without the S, and “miércoles” comes after martes, then what comes after Marte? Miércole, of course!
I’m sure Jaimito gets good grades…
8 – Is the Snake Free?
– ¡Socorro, me ha picado una víbora!
– No, gratis.
Help, I’ve been bitten by a snake!
Yet another pun that’s lost in translation. The joke is that the noun cobra, the type of snake which has the same name in English, is a homonym of the third-person singular form of the verb cobrar, which means “to charge” (as in to charge money.)
So when the second person in the dialogue tries to guess the type of snake – “¿Cobra?” – he could also be asking “does he charge”, as in “did the snake charge you for the bite?”. So the bite victim replies that no, the bite was free.
9 – English Nose
– ¿Cómo se escribe «nariz» en inglés?
– No sé
How do you write “nose” in English?
I don’t know.
I started this article with a joke that requires knowledge of both English and Spanish, so why not end with something similar? “No sé” means “I don’t know”, but it’s of course written with the same letters as the English word “nose”. So if a Spanish speaker asks you how to say nariz in English, and you tell them you don’t know… you’ve also given them the correct answer.
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