In Mexico, an albur is a pun or a double entendre in which one of the possible meanings usually carries sexual undertones. It is very common among groups of predominately male friends; however, its use is considered rude or distasteful when not amongst friends, especially when in the presence of women. Albur is also a form of comedy and many artists and comedians, including Alberto Rojas "El Caballo", Polo Polo, and others are renowned for their skills at performing albures (alburear). Brozo has been known for having albureado several prominent political figures in Mexican television such as Mexico's former president, Felipe Calderon (2006–2012).
Usually, the game of albures is a subtle, verbal competition in which the players try to show superiority by using albures attempting to leave the opponent without a comeback. There are two general purposes in an albur, sexual and generally degrading:
- To show off the alburero's masculinity by making a remark of him being the "aggressor" (or male party) in a sexual intercourse
- To imply (subtly or bluntly) the opponent's (albureado) lack of virility by stating him to be the "victim" (female or passive receiver) in a sexual encounter. In the context of an albur, the receptive side of the sexual intercourse is considered to be the "losing" side while the male, giving, active side is the "winner". This applies regardless of whether it is male to male or male to female intercourse.
- Exhibiting the opponent as dumb or stupid, many times with references to animals (typically donkey, mule, ox, and ram).
Albures are commonplace in many sectors of Mexican society and are usually regarded as a sign of an agile (though somewhat dirty and more often than not superb minuteman) mind. In fact, it is possible to find people who brag about their skills (at albures) and claim to be "good at it", this phrase being itself an albur (also a self-reference to their virily and sexual "power"). The albures are commonly found in almost every Mexican social sector (cométela entera, eat it all, being an agile mind's piece of work) being more common in low class sectors, but totally present in higher ones also. However, in a hypocritical act, people may sometimes categorize those who use albures as nacos, which is a way of saying you are an urban poor soul who comes from the rural area.
Though at first sight outsiders may see albures as a very rude, distasteful, blunt and aggressive activity, it is usually nothing more than a pastime which promotes laughter and is an excuse to joke around with friends. An important aspect of the refinement of an albur exchange is the level at which it can be seen as a double entendre. The most refined albureros can maintain a double entendre conversation in such a way that an unprepared listener would not even realize there was an underlying sexual connotation. In such a case that person would find the giggling, blushing and pausing awkward.
It sometimes happens that a newcomer is "welcomed" into a group or conversation with a quick and unexpected albur (we're telling you). This behaviour would tend to immediately set who is the (sexual) aggressor, thus being a form to establish a male hierarchy. A quick comeback would definitely gain him the recognition of the group, though this is seldom expected, due to shyness, surprise, lack of ability to recognize the albur, or lack of ability to produce an answer.
Women play a crucial role in the language and focus of albures. While the alburero would attempt to show the albureado as the passive sexual partner, he could as well target the female relatives of the albureado, namely mother and sisters. In fact, many people are over-reactive to this type of references and might be more easily moved to a violent response than by any other type of albur, or even overt insults.
But women have another possible relationship to albures. What if they actually were the alburera? The situation becomes quite complicated, as the general counterattack strategy, of exhibiting her as a passive sexual partner, makes no harm. In this case, the albureado suffers a double humiliation since he would not be able to fend off the albur, and he would have been albureado by a woman.
Language and structure
Albures make use of several aspects of (empirical, innate) linguistic knowledge.
Many albures originate from similarities in the pronunciation of different words:
- "Dame la hora"
("Give me the time -- what time is it?")
- "Dámela ahora"
("Give it to me now")
A smart (in the style of Sade) reply to this albur would be something along the lines of:
- "Sure, today and tomorrow too"
Other make use of the fact that a same word (phonetic sign) has several meanings, one of which will be exploited.
An example would include Mexican bus drivers, for whom it is common to ask riders about la parada, which may mean both "the stop" and "the erected one". Therefore, in order not to become a victim, the rider should be careful not to reply "al tope", which may mean "at the speedbump" but also a more dangerous "the whole thing" or "until it stops".
When the antecedent for a pronoun is substituted for a sexual reference the simplest (cheapest) form of albures can be achieved.
Using the same example as above,
- "Dámela ahora"
("Give it to me now") several examples can be easily constructed where the previous conversation would include antecedents for the clitic pronoun "-la" [fem, sing], and the albur comeback would re-reference it to mean the penis (among the several synonyms for penis, there are some with the correct gender and number agreement).
Generalization of meaning/context
- a) Eres un tonto.
- b) Te veo triste.
- a) You are dumb.
- b) I see that you are sad.
In this exchange the interesting aspect is that b's response mechanism is simply to substitute the out-of-context "sad" with a's accusation. Explicitly, b's response would effectively be interpreted as "I see that you are dumb".
Some of the most renown masters of the Albur are "Chaf y Queli" who made several records in the 1970´s under the "Discos Dialo" label.
Armando Jimenez, who wrote "Picardía Mexicana" makes a great recompilation of Albures and other mexicanisms.