Costa Rican Spanish has adopted plenty of English words and phrases in recent times, due to the country’s close ties with the United States and the ever-increasing number of North American tourists and residents in the country. How do you say coffee-maker in Spanish? That’ll be ‘coffeemaker’ (said with a strong Spanish accent!) However, no English word seems more appropriate to be adopted into Costa Rica than the US verb: MacGyver.
The verb is inspired by the US TV series MacGyver and is used to describe a person who uses an everyday object for a purpose other than it was originally intended to be used, just as the main character of the show! While this word may be employed in the USA; Costa Ricans have daily need for such a verb and so it has been adopted into Spanish here with real enthusiasm!
If you are from North America, you MacGyver as a temporary measure – the pantyhose replacement for the broken fan belt, just to get the car to the garage. In Costa Rica it is a permanent measure! One of the main reasons for this is the problem of spare parts, as electrical appliances and vehicles are all imported into the country, the replacement parts for certain makes or models may be difficult, if not impossible to find. So what do you do when something goes wrong? You MacGyver! When my washing machine broke down, I bought the replacement part that was most similar to the original one and after it was MacGyvered with a hammer, fitted perfectly! MacGyvering then can be a matter of necessity!
In some cases, MacGyvering is employed as a thrifty solution to a problem. A house I lived in had previously been rented by a Tico with a cash-flow crisis and gradually the MacGyvered nature of the accommodation began to be exposed. The toilet cistern had be carefully fixed with a plastic bag; a fault in a light switch with a metal bread tie; a closet hinge with a shoelace and the list goes on and on. I finally moved out when the MacGyvered fuse box of the house burst into flames! While this may seem risky behavior to North Americans who are accustomed to strict building regulations which are rigorously enforced; to most Ticos, this kind of MacGyvering is simple common sense! After all when all items imported into Costa Rica are expensive to buy, due to the taxes slapped on them; you want to make them last and last and last….Add to this that the humidity of the environment here takes its toll and generally cuts the life span of electrical goods – it’s a case of MacGyver or lose!
Of course, you can MacGyver too far. The constant problems arising from the very newly completed Autopista Del Sol, including flooding and landslides, suggests that someone chose to cut too many corners in the construction of the highway in order to line their own pockets! This goes against the spirit of Costa Rican MacGyvering which is the demonstration of true inventiveness and cunning in the face of need.