The term bacán is used in different ways according to the geographical region. It is a concept used in colloquial language, in the midst of informal contexts.
In countries like Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Chile, bacán is an adjective that qualifies what is positive, pleasant or great. For example: “This TV show is awesome! It’s great fun ”, “ I tried hard and I accomplished the goal, it was great ”, “ For me it is great to have returned to my country after so many years ”.
Bacán can also be used, in some nations, with reference to an individual of great physical attractiveness: “That model is cool, I would love to have dinner with him”, “I don’t think dressing that way makes you look more cool”, “As a young man It was cool: I didn’t lack the suitors ”.
A curious fact is that this notion is used in some areas to name the man who is supported by a woman, but in others to refer to the man who is responsible for paying the expenses of his partners. In other words, a bacán can be a man who is supported by his wife or who supports his wife depending on the country: “Jorge is a bacán: he is at the bar all day while his wife struggles to bring money home”, ” My uncle was a killer, he never let his girlfriends work ”.
In Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia, finally, the individual who has a lot of money or the elegant place is called a bacán: “My neighbor is a bacán who has three cars and always spends the summer in the Caribbean”, “Don’t play the bacán with me, I know that debts overwhelm you ”, “ Last night we had dinner at a very cool restaurant that cost us a fortune ”.
Etymology of the word bacán
According to an investigation carried out by Hugo Gonzáles Montalvo for a blog titled Bacanería Planetaria, the word bacán derives from the Genoese Latin baccan. This theory is supported by some lungüistas of the University of Genoa, who also affirm that baccan comes from a crosier, an Indo-European voice that can be defined as “a command staff used in ceremonies that symbolizes moral authority.”
If we focus, therefore, on the Latin that was used in Genoa, we find the old word baccan, which meant “captain of the ship, father of the family, patron.” In turn, it is the root of bacanería, which according to a Milanese dictionary produced by Francesco Cherubini and published in 1839 can be used as a synonym for « joy».
Italians who emigrated to Argentina carried the term baccan with them. Since they used it very often in everyday speech, it did not take long for Argentines to understand its meaning and adapt the word to their language through lunfardo, which began as a happy or “playful” form that the language adopted in Buenos Aires. Aires.
At the beginning of the 20th century, as a word for Buenos Aires lunfardo it appeared in various tango lyrics that, given the success of this musical genre, transcended the country’s borders and reached the entire continent. When used in masculine it referred to the man who, due to his financial ease, could support a lover; in feminine, on the other hand, it described a woman whose life had become very comfortable thanks to the help of a man.
Unfortunately, the machismo present in these meanings is not rare in our language, especially in the versions that were spoken decades and centuries ago. Both examples, by the way, can be seen in the tango entitled « Mano a mano «, published in 1923. Its arrival in Latin America led to the meanings mentioned above, among others, and today the Internet merges them as a result. of communication between people around the world.