¿Mande? Come Again?

By Gloria M. Rivera

In Spanish, according to the Diccionario de la lengua española (DLE), “mandar” means to order or to command (i.e. “Mi médico me mandó a ver a un especialista” [My doctor sent me to see a specialist]) or to send something (i.e. “Mis padres me mandaron un regalo por mi cumpleaños”[My parents send me a present for my birthday]). 

As a Peruvian, “mande” is a word that I had included in my “Mexican word list” years ago. To me, it is a polite way to ask for a repetition. In fact, the Diccionario de Español de México defines it as “Expresión de cortesía con la que uno contesta a alguien que lo llama o cuando no ha escuchado algo: “—¡Raúl! —¡Mande!”

¿Mande? is also one of the most useful words when interpreting for a patient or deponent who lives in California or any border state, whether it is Mexican or non-Mexican. Whenever a person says something I couldn’t hear for any reason, for example, it was spoken too fast or the audio was bad, I use it and it never fails.

Diccionario de Español de México defines it as “Expresión de cortesía con la que uno contesta a alguien que lo llama o cuando no ha escuchado algo: “—¡Raúl! —¡Mande!”

It is a fast, practical, and efficient way to say “Señora, no la pude oír bien, ¿podría repetir lo que dijo? Gracias”. [Ma’am, I could not hear what you said. Could you repeat it, please? Thank you]. It is as expressing that I was not able to hear something, ask for a repetition, and wrap it all in politeness.

Also, whenever I ask “¿puede repetir lo que dijo? [Can you please repeat what you said?] I have noticed that people tend to rewind, add more context, and provide more information than their original statement.

In English, the best equivalent of “mande” would be “Come again?”. And the Cambridge Dictionary confirms that this word is “used to ask someone to repeat something that you have not heard or understood”.  It lacks the politeness of its Mexican counterpart, but it is good enough for me. Although, it may not be good enough for my brain as I have caught myself saying “¿Mande?” to English-speaking providers which I suspect indicates how comfortable my brain is with this “linguistic shortcut”. 

Isn’t “¿mande?” a very practical word? What is your experience with using it?  Do you have a similar word in your language? Let me know in the comment section.