Culture & ideas

Tower of Babel: Plight of the Fanta chump

24 July 2009
Cafebabel.com Paris

It is a symptom of a young man's unrequited love for his female best friend that he is forever footing her soft drink bill. Cafebabel.com goes out in search of Spain's "Pagafantas" and his lovelorn brothers across the continent.

Internet usage of the Spanish term "pagafantas" has gone into overdrive in recent months. The phenomenon is driven by the significant increase in the number of posters promoting the Spanish film Pagafantas (2009).

Ever increasing cases of "pagafantismo" are a great subject for girl-talk. The term, derived from pagar – to pay, and fantas, the plural of the soft drink – refers to men who, due to timidity, never dare take affirmative action to win over the object of their affections. While they are waiting for the event to happen naturally, they end up paying for the lucky girl's expenses at the cinema, at the bar and in restaurants, in the hope that one day she realises that she’s with the man of her dreams. Which of course rarely happens.

The twist is that during this time, the woman readily confides in the man, getting intimate with him (which results in the poor "pagafantas" believing his chances of success are increasing). When, after several months or even years, the "pagafantas" plucks up the courage to declare his flame, the answer, inevitably, is as follows – "I see you as just a friend, you’ll make another girl very happy" (te veo como un amigo, harás muy feliz a otra chica) or "You’re like a brother to me" (eres como un hermano), which leaves a sad "pagafantas" regretting all the lost time spent chasing an unattainable dream.

The word "pagafantas" has no direct translation. Yet this type of chump is not exclusive to Spain – he is a global phenomenon. Wherever humanity resides, there will always be a "pagafantas" eating his heart out. In Britain, men often end up being that "shoulder to cry on" rather than coughing up the Fanta bill, whilst French women rely on their "bon copain" (good friend) in times of emotional need.

These terms for the supportive friend, however, do not fully do justice to the born loser that our pagafantas is. German and Polish women are somewhat crueller in their taunts, relying on the animal world to find a term suitable for these unfortunate suckers. Maskottchen (pet)  and Klette (limpet) are some choice words thrown around by the Germans. Wierny jak pies (as loyal as a dog) comes from the Poles. In Italy, the now-defunct pop group 883, summed it up in their 1997 song La regola dell amico (Rules for friends) : La regola dell’amico non sbaglia mai/ Se sei amico di una donna/ Non ci combinerai niente/ Mai lo vorrai/ Rovinare un cosi bel rapport ) – "If you like a woman, be careful, don’t get too close or you’ll wind up just being her friend."

                                                                                                                                   Álvaro Sánchez (Translation : darrenthomps)