Argentine Spanish is strewn with words and colorful phrases from Lunfardo, a rich vocabulary born on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century. Now considered a fixture of the Spanish language in Argentina (especially in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, linguists cite the use of Lunfardo as a defining characteristic of the Rioplatense dialect.
“This bondi can’t take longer!” “This bondi leaves me three blocks away from my house”, “The frequency of this bondi is disastrous!” These and other similar phrases in Spanish are frequently heard in Argentina, especially in the city of Buenos Aires. Any tourist can hear them in everyday conversations but, what does bondi mean? What are all these people talking about?
Bondi is the lunfardo term for the city bus or “colectivo” and it is still widely used in the River Plate area. Let’s explore its etymological origin.
Bondi and its Brazilian Origin
According to many language experts, bondi is a derivation from a Brazilian word born in the city of Sao Paulo at the beginning of the 20th Century. At that time, the tramways of the city were owned by English companies and, therefore, the price of the ticket was preceded by the word bond. Brazilians understood that the term bond meant tramway and extended its meaning to all the public transport. In Portuguese, many words that end with a consonant add the sound “i”, in this case represented by the adding the letter “e” at the end of the word. Italian immigrants took the word bonde to Montevideo and Buenos Aires, where the word was adopted as bondi.
Bondi and the Shape of the Bus
There is another theory that states that the word bondi is, in fact, a diminutive of the word albóndiga (meat ball), after which the urban buses in Buenos Aires were named because they were much smaller than what they are nowadays and roundish in shape.