The verb rajar literally means “to crack,” “to slice,” or “to tear/rip.”
La casa se empezó a rajar.
The house started to crack.
We can see in the accompanying photo that this is indeed the case. Meanwhile, a newspaper in Spain
warns of a gang of automobile “pirates” who use:
un método basado en rajar la rueda del coche de la víctima
a method based on slicing the wheel of the victim's car
Idiomatically, rajar often means “to back out,” “to quit,” or “to give up.” In our most popular telenovela, Muñeca Brava, Ramón, the gardener, talks about men who refuse to accept responsibility as fathers:
Hay tipos así... tipos así que se rajan.
There are guys like that... guys like that who back out.
Caption 62, Muñeca Brava - 43 - La reunión - Part 6
By extension, in Mexico un rajón is a coward, someone who backs out. One of the hit men hired to kill the protagonist of the Mexican movie El Ausente advises his pal:
¡No sea rajón! Ni que fuera el diablo en persona.
Don't be a coward! It’s not like he is the devil incarnate.
Caption 34, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 3
You will find that Argentines, in particular, ascribe a broad range of meanings to rajar, many of which are on display in Muñeca Brava. For example, Ivo uses the word to say that he will have Mili fired:
Voy a hablar con mi abuela sobre la cuestión y la voy a hacer rajar de la casa.
I'm going to talk to my grandmother about the matter and I'm going to get her fired from the house.
Caption 266, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 4
And Martita, who actually committed the misdeed Mili's been accused of, enjoys a brief moment of victory:
Sí, me encantó que la rajaran.
Yes, I loved that they kicked her out.
Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 5
In another episode, Gamo, one of Mili’s pals, uses rajar to express that he is leaving in a rush:
Uh, entonces me voy rajando a avisarle al Club, a los chicos, que tengo novia.
Uh, so I'm running to tell the Club, to tell the boys that I have a girlfriend.
Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 8
Finally, Milagros quotes Sister Cachetes, echoing one of the most common Argentine uses of rajar, “to run away”:
Que cuando a vos te empieza a pasar algo adentro así, como fuerte...
lo conveniente es rajar.
That when you start feeling something inside like this, like, strong...
the advisable thing is to run away.
Caption 24–25, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 2
Stay tuned to Yabla Spanish, as future episodes of our new show from Colombia, Misión Chef, will be using rajar in still another way, and using it a lot!
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