Spanish language etymology, please?

As most American Dopers (who have been to a Mexican restaurant lately) know, a chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito. Now the name certainly looks Spanish, but if it is, one would expect it to translate to a name in English. Babelfish says that the English word for chimichanga is chimichanga.

This suggests one of two things: Either it’s a word that was made up for the American Mexican restaurant industry, or it has no other meaning.

But it could still have an etymology, couldn’t it? Please, Spanish-speaking Dopers, break down the word to its component syllables, and tell me what they meant before being used to describe a deep-fried burrito.

Many thanks.

Have Wikipedia, will travel :

FWIW I have traveled through most of Mexico and eaten at many actual Mexican restaurants, and never saw a single one that served “chimichangas”.

well, that chimichangas are deep-fried burritos sort of gives away that it is really deep down an American dish, don’t you think? :slight_smile:

So what’s the English word for taco?

Not all Spanish words have their equivalent in English. And this is basically true if you change “Spanish” and “English” in that sentence with any other pair of languages.

And this might be especially true when you are talking about gastronomic specialties (I was going to say delicacies, but talking about chimichanga it seems like a very unsuitable adjective):


But still, the original question about the etymology of the word chimichanga may have a better explanation that the one in that Wikipedia article. There is a book called “LOS “SUFIJOS” NO ESPAÑOLES Y LAS INNOVACIONES SUFIJALES EN EL ESPAÑOL CENTROAMERICANO” (In English: “The non-spanish suffixes and the suffix innovations in the centroamerican Spanish”), which you can find in the Cervantes Institute online library here. In the page 73, it says that the word chimichanga (also spelled chivichanga) comes from an unspecified indian language in Mexico and that it means “cheap thing, thing without much importance”.

Then again, it is a Tex-Mex dish, is it not? :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh, I don’t know, someone recently mentioned that he spent some time as an exchange student in Southern Spain and hated the deep-fried food, which is rare in Northern Spain. Does anybody know whether people in Southern England are more prone to deep-frying than those in the North?

How do you translate burrito to English, by the way? :slight_smile: I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody call them a li’l donkey, or refer to a taco (which Hilarity N. Suze mentioned) as a cussword or cutoff.

In Spain, tortilla means a kind of omelette.

Only in Spanish from Spain.

In Mexican Spanish tortilla refers to the round “crepe” of corn flour used to make burritos and the like.

Actually, there is more fried stuff in Southern Spain than in the North. But we Spanish may tend to fry things like potatoes, squid, fish…

Here we are talking about deep frying a whole, complete, already prepared dish… I may not know much about genuine American culinary successes, but it really sounds like a pretty American dish to me :smiley:

And the only one of those which would be deep-fried where I come from is the potatoes, and only if they’re to be used as a side dish. The rest would be fried, yes, but not deep-fried, ie what my grandmother called “drowning in oil, pfaugh!”

The North also cooks a la plancha (grilled) a lot more than the South.

If a foodstuff is known in English by the Spanish name, then that is its English name. Like churros, tacos, gazpacho, tapas, sangria and lots of others. That doesn’t mean the word was invented.

Flour, please. If it’s corn, it’s a taco, or apparently in the Mexico City area, a quesadilla.

What? Cite for corn tortillas being called “quesadilla” anywhere?

In Southern California, a tortilla is a round flat bread, very thin and unleavened, made of masa (corn tortilla) or wheat flour (flour tortilla). It can’t be a quesadilla unless there’s queso (cheese) attached. In order to be a taco, it should be folded in half and fried (either with the filling in, or as a shell to add the filling to later) (hard taco) or, occasionally, just warmed and folded around the filling like a mini-burrito (soft taco). Burritos tend not to use corn tortillas, they tend to be larger, and they tend to contain beans (tacos tend not to).

This frying of the shell to make a hard taco is definitely an Americanization of Mexican food. A “real” taco is on a soft tortilla. Frying the tortilla to make it a hard taco is an American thing.

ETA: Furthermore, a “real” taco consists of the tortilla, meat, onions and cilantro. Cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and the like are more Americanizations.

That’s why I was specific about the region. I’m not sure who gets to define “real” taco, but I don’t see why my region shouldn’t be included. How many millions of people from Mexico do you need to represent authentic Mexican culture? This region’s Mexican food is (surprise) influenced by other cultures it has come in contact with, including dairy-happy Anglo-Americans, but that merely makes it regional, not inauthentic.

Anyway, I’ve seen honest-to-goodness Mexican-born Mexicans fry corn tortillas to make tacos, so I’m not sure where you get your data. Example: my college roommate’s mother. She did not put sour cream on her tacos, but nor did she put cilantro in them (though she certainly used it in other recipes).

I’ve seen the tacos you describe in Tijuana, and they’ve made an appearance in some of the American chains (Rubio’s markets them as “street tacos,” though I think they add guacamole).

Neither chimichanga nor chivichanga are in the online RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) dictionary which is kind of weird.

Curiously enough, the first reference in a cookbook to a hard shell taco was made by an American from New Mexico and a device designed to fry tortillas was patented by a New Yorker 2 years prior. Cite:

I don’t know what region has to do with anything. Your descriptions of tacos is typically American-- per your own words tacos are only soft “occasionally.” In the US, perhaps this is true, but in the world where tacos originally came from, they are only rarely, if ever, fried.

OK, so she is making American tacos. What’s the problem here? I would ask if you’ve ever you actually ever been to Mexico, or to a taco cart, or even a real Mexican restaurant… but your next comment makes it clear:

Of course that’s what you saw in TJ, those are “real” tacos from Mexico, and where is TJ located?!

Anything you find at Rubio’s is going to be Americanized, confirmed by your reference to it being an American chain. Rubio’s is not Mexican food. It is Mexican-American food.

This is especially true of English, where using loan words for unnamed concepts is pretty much standard practice. In fact, from a certain perspective, English is almost entirely made up of loan words.

As I’m sure you know, there’s not really one sort of Mexican food. Every region of Mexico has it’s own style of food. And it turns out that there are regions of Mexico that have their own style of Mexican food that are within the boundaries of the United States. California-style Mexican food is just as authentic as Oaxaca-style Mexican food.