Next time you hear someone cry out “Che!” while you’re walking down the street in Argentina, no, you don’t need to start looking around for the guy you’ve seen on all of those t-shirts and posters in your college dorm. Che Guevara has not returned from the dead, and you can probably just ignore it, unless, of course, that cry is directed towards you.
See, “che” doesn’t only refer to the famous 20th-century Argentine revolutionary, and in Argentina, that association is made very rarely. Instead, “che” is used informally much in the same way native English speakers use “dude”, or ‘hey”, as an attention-grabber. Especially among friends or family, the phrase can refer to someone specifically or rhetorically, so while you don’t need to excitedly whip your head around looking for the real Che, make sure nobody is talking to you either before ignoring the call.
While the origins of the word to the Argentine culture (as well as neighboring Uruguay, where it is also very popular) is unclear—linguists often argue whether it stems from an indigenous language to the region or whether it was brought along with northern Italian immigrants—that it is hugely popular in Argentina today is not.
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