Why do Mexicans Say "¿Mande?" Instead of "¿Que?"

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And why do Mexicans put rocks behind the tires of their cars while parked?

DEAR MEXICAN: Even though throughout the years since I came to the U.S. 20 years ago I have seen it happening with less frequency, the use by Mexicans of the expression ¿Mande? (Command me) has always struck me. I personally see it as a symbolic legacy of submission probably originating from the times of the Spanish conquistadores. Are you aware of any other meaning? What's interesting to me is that I've heard this expression coming more often from the so-called pochos than from Mexican immigrants.

Che Argentina

DEAR MEXICAN: I'm a Mexican-American with a dilemma. Why do most Mexicans respond by saying, "¿Mande?" while most other non-Mexican Hispanics respond with, "¿Cómo?" I asked around, and nobody has a right answer. I'm sure you will know 'cause you're a smarter-than-average Mexican.

Mark Dancey

Details

Ask the Mexican at themexican@askamexican.net, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

More About

Cheldingo

DEAR READERS: Out of all the folk etymologies that plague Mexican Spanish—like people thinking gringo comes from Mexicans making fun of the green coats of invading gabachos, or that the phonological similarity of Michigan and Michoacán is proof that the Aztecs came from the Midwest—none is more laughable than insisting the Mexican propensity to use ¿Mande? ("Excuse me?") is a reflection on the perpetual Mexican inferiority complex. Yes, ¿Mande? is a legacy of colonialism—Cortés used the term in his letters—but so what? So is the word tortilla and the corrido. All Latin American cultures keep parts of the Conquest alive in their regional Spanish, but there is no historical evidence that conquistadors in Mexico demanded that their Indian or mestizo servants use the formal ¿Mande? instead of the informal ¿Que? or ¿Cómo? or ¿Perdón? (words that Mexicans also use, by the way) to maintain racial superiority. Mexican Spanish merely follows Spanish pronoun rules—imagine that! You want real linguistic subservience? Try su merced (your mercy), which South Americans use in favor of ustedes. Now that's a wuss culture right there.

*     *     *

DEAR MEXICAN: My parents are immigrants from Mexico who came here and had me and my brother and sister. Of course, they've both retained some rituals that aren't very necessary and would no doubt seem odd to the average American observer. One I've never mustered enough courage to ask about is this habit of placing a large stone or a log behind one of the rear wheels. I've assumed it's so the car won't roll away because of gravity, but I know this isn't necessary when in park. Or maybe it's to ward off grand theft auto? Are automobiles in Mexico just not largely reliable or is it a symbolic action to prevent theft?

Rocky Llantas

Dear Peñascoso Tires: Are you kidding me? Putting a log or rock behind a tire is the Mexican version of LoJack. The smart Mexican gets a rock or log craggy or pointy enough so that anyone who tries to make off with their car will immediately puncture the tire or wreck the rim when they try to zoom off. After that, all you have to do is follow the skid marks to wherever the thieves left the car. Simple, ingenious and cheap: the Mexican way.

 
My Voice Nation Help
66 comments
pocho1524
pocho1524

Yes, only servants say "Mande". Typically the interaction would go as follows:

Higher status person (me): "'¡Juana!"

Lower status person (Juana): "Si señor. Mande."

Very much like "A sus ordenes". This is not a colonial thing so much as a hold over from the time of nobles and royalty. Spaniards and the colonized peoples are not of the Reformation (or even the Renasimiento). Until recently, Spaniards spoke of "going to Europe", and so considered themselves different.

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

Why do Mexicans Say "¿Mande?" Instead of "¿Que?". How about because it's considered polite and Mexican culture leans toward the polite? Sometimes these things are over-thought (and obviously, in some posters' cases, no thought applied).

vivamehico
vivamehico

of course, mexicans were created to be our servants.. jeez, isnt that obvious? now go unclog my toilet jose

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

I've heard other spanish speakers use "a la orden", "a sus ordenes"  so the servility is more than just mexica.

Cay Pasa
Cay Pasa

I've often wondered why most the Americas got rid of vosotros (thee), but continue using tú (thou). Maybe El Mexicano can answer that one. ;)

Cachiguango JC
Cachiguango JC

Mande is not only used by Mexicans. I am Ecuador Native and we use mande specially with the parents or elders. Mande papito o mande mamita, don't know if it's something related with the conquest or came before. In my culture even if you past through another people house , you say ñanda mañachi if there is someone. This means let me pass through in sign of respect. I think this must be the case in most of the Native tribes.

Susanna MacManus
Susanna MacManus

Mándeme = give me orders everywhere in the Spanish speaking world! Do away with it.

Elisandro
Elisandro

You will find interesting analisis an explanations of the mexican culture, in the book of Octavio Paz The Labyrinth of Solitude.

Christine Ferreira
Christine Ferreira

I got an earful from my son's babysitter, who was a 75 year Cubana when I used "mande" with her because it was submissive. I forget what she said to use instead. As a gringa I look on it as one of the many fascinating differences in Spanish from cultures and countries.

John Salazar
John Salazar

Not to offend anyone by my comment all race do the same some form or another

Rudy Resendez
Rudy Resendez

U mean the "cosmic race"? Being mexican is being a hybrid of spanish, native and african..."mande" may have been a way of stating "instruct me" but new spain was a conglemoration of people, so whoever posted that is wrong or ignorant and doesn't historically know what the Mexican experience means

Ezra Frida
Ezra Frida

John you sound just like any white pendejo, are you that white?

John Salazar
John Salazar

Mexicans are ass backwards there so proud of the country and all they do is glorify drug lords !!!!

Aldo Flores
Aldo Flores

No we are courteous, not submissive!

Victor Salas
Victor Salas

I never heard anything about "¿mande?" Being a form of spanish submission, or anything like that. My mom is old school, and my sis and I were simply taught that it was a formal acknowledgement of respect to answer anyone person older than us, a guest, or a stranger (when we were outside), who spoke to us. Pretty much the equivalent of saying "Yes Sir/Ma'am?"

Perlita Beauford
Perlita Beauford

I was taught to use mande and a sus ordenes. My mom was hardcore and I know only to use those. I use it at work all the time.

Corky Frausto
Corky Frausto

Cuz I would have been toothless if I had responded ¿Que? to my grandmother. We had to do the Mandeme. When I started teaching I had to teach myself to to respond with Digame, didn't seem right saying Mande to students, a esos mocosos no.

Susanna MacManus
Susanna MacManus

It is the language of colonized people. That is also why the vosotros is not used in the Americas because it is a voice of familiarity of equals. Much more used are Usted, Ustedes which imply rank and respect that comes with that. It is super important in the New World to know your place and rank and to use the proper language for that. A true indication of the colonized.

Nina Garcia
Nina Garcia

I was taught saying que is like saying what...so mande it was, or still is!!

El Aragones Errante
El Aragones Errante

It actually comes from the cacique era prior to the revolution where patrones (land lords that owned ridiculous amounts of land) treated mestizos as servants and were not allowed to utter any other sentence while in their presence than "mande usted".....

Sandy Matthews
Sandy Matthews

Samantha Black Wooooo, my Gramps would put logs behind his parked cars (he was a mechanic)!!

mophotography44
mophotography44

Plain and simple is a sign of respect! it's a Mexican thing that not a lot of people understand.

Gina Urquiza Waters
Gina Urquiza Waters

It was and is mande or mande usted...or else, in my parents home. My father made sure we all knew it to be true...responding with "que" is classless and disrepectful.

Jessica Espinoza
Jessica Espinoza

My grandmother always taught me to respond with "Si?" She said only the servants used "Mande"

Graciela Mireles
Graciela Mireles

I like my face the way it is so if my mom calls for me I always say "Mande."

Debi Teter
Debi Teter

Here in Manzanillo, mande is often used. I have learned it, tho will sometimes say "perdon".

Luis Uriostegui
Luis Uriostegui

Great minds think alike. I wrote a paper on my Chicano studies class in high school about behind the meaning of words, Mande was one of them.

Gustavo Martinez
Gustavo Martinez

When you say que or what it sounds so rude if it's family. If is a stranger or a friend don't most people say. Yes? People who answers with 'what' need to eat one of my moms spicy salsa!

Gustavo Martinez
Gustavo Martinez

My daughter and boy uses Mande and I like it cause that's how my grandma show me to show respect to elders never once I heard it was because the españoles. And the log thingy we did it cause we were always fixing the cars so they wouldn't roll back, I never heard about being a version of the LoJack -

Tess Herrera
Tess Herrera

I don't know about no submission to assholes! Hahaha but if we did not answer with it my mami and Papi would see it as disrespect and then there would be hell to pay!

Ian Worthington
Ian Worthington

"su merced" used in SA rather than uds? Never heard that hear in Bogotá... Do I need to get out more?

Daisy Toledo
Daisy Toledo

I've never even thought about this. But using "que" sounds so disrespectful that I tell my niece and nephew to use "mande" when speaking to my parents.

Viviana Huerta
Viviana Huerta

I learned this from my Mom, Dad, Grandparents and my kids use Mande as well. In college a guy from Costa Rica told me they don't use Mande because it's submissive, they prefer to use, "digame". It doesn't sound as respectful as Mande to me, so I'll stick with tradition. :)

ninguen
ninguen

@downtownbrown  Those expressions are used in Spain too. I've almost always heard "a la orden" or "a sus órdenes" in contexts featuring soldiers or policemen, where obviously hierarchy is important. 

"Mande" is less common - it's usually said by old people or in a humorous way. Sometimes I also heard it when a boss calls an employee and s/he answers using "mande" meaning "what do you want from me?", but it's not used frequently.

keithfresno
keithfresno

"Vosotros" is just the plural version of "tú."  It's used exclusively in Spain.  That is, it's an informal way of plural direct address.  In Spain "usted" is singular and formal, while "ustedes" is plural and formal.  "Ustedes" is used in Latin America for both formal and informal plural address.  


"Vosotros" arose from "vos," which has had a fascinating history of being plural, then singular, then informal and rural, then formal and singular.  It made it to Latin America and is still used as the informal singular address of choice in Argentina, Uruguay and many other places instead of "tú" or at least alongside it.  

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

Yup, "WHAAAT!" or "pardon me?", exactly. I have heard native speakers use"¿Que?", but informally with close acqaintances (specifically from Mexicali, so it could be a localism).

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...