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Qué Onda: What's Up? Waves and Good Vibes.

Let's continue with Arturo Vega's tentative arrival in New York:


Y vine primeramente en el sesenta y nueve para ver qué onda, a ver qué tal estaba Nueva York.

And I first came in sixty-nine to see what was going on, to see how New York was.

Captions 70-71, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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"¿Qué onda?" It's a common question in Mexico and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world. It's even a common greeting. If you took it literally, the question sounds like "What wave?" -since "qué" (with an accented é) means "what" and "onda" means "wave," technically speaking. While "de onda corta" is "shortwave," as in shortwave radio, note that "onda" can also mean "vibe" informally. And so "qué onda" can mean, basically, "what's up" or "what's going on," as our translators have it. ("What vibe" sounds silly in English.)

Onda in this informal sense seems to have originated in Mexican colloquial speech and is used in a
wide variety of ways. This usage has spread throughout Latin America but, by most accounts, continues to be most common in the place it originated.

Note that ola is also a word for "wave," and this is the word used to describe the things that slap the beach. If you talk about an onda when describing a body of water, most native Spanish speakers will take it that you mean a "ripple." So, next time you visit
Puerto Escondido, note that a surfista is certainly riding las olas, but might be staying at Cabañas la Buena Onda (The Good Vibe Cabanas) -- which are still so pure that they don't appear to have a website, but we guarantee you they exist (find them at La Punta, "The Point").




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