I’ve come across the expression on street corners, near pizzerias, outside grocery stores, always as a prohibition. The location is invariably in Latino neighborhoods. Needless to say, the expression isn’t registered in either the OED or in the DLE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española de la Real Academia), which doesn’t surprise me. Lexicons have been slow in incorporating Spanglishisms, even one as versatile as this one.
Elsewhere I’ve seen the word in action: as verb (hangiar), as noun (hangiador), and as adjective (hangiante). On rare occasions, I’ve come across slight spelling variations: No Hangueo and, even less frequently, No Jangueo.
It comes from “hanging out,” a popular expression among American youth. Merriam-Webster defines “hangout” as a favorite place for spending time and “hang out” as the act of protruding. My 21-year-old son Josh, a senior at a New York university, often invites me, via email, “to hang out together,” meaning to spend valuable time with each other next time I’m in Manhattan.
In contrast, hangiar is confrontational almost to the point of xenophobia: It is a Latino art par excellence, i.e., the incapacity to take control, the desire to exist in a dissipated state. Since the No Hangeo signs are placed where 13- to 25-year-old Latinos will see them, the message is clear: “you young Spanglish-speaking ne’er-do-gooders, get out of sight.”
You might ask: Why not state the same expression in English: No Hanging Out? After all, it might have a somewhat different connotation, although it appears to make the same point. It doesn’t, though because No Hangeo acknowledges that both the announcer and his target have a common Latino background. As such, the message in Spanglish proclaims: I too could be hangiando like you, but I’ve chosen to focus my attention. So wake up, bro’; ese—despiértate!
Conversely, why not write the expression in Spanish? Because there is no simple way of saying “hanging out” en español. Andar por allí is a more itinerant turn of phrase: It is used to refer to someone not in a stationary state but wandering around. Pasar el rato is used for wasting time, though it doesn’t have a negative connotation. Other jargon expressions—and there are plenty, depending on the country—quemándola (burning it), zumbando como mosca muerta (buzzing like a dead fly), and, succinctly, no haciendo nada (doing nothing) don’t appear to be suitable for official urban signs.
Not long ago, a friend of mine who is a high-school teacher in Holyoke, Mass., while toying with the word, told me he is thinking of placing an ad outside his office: “Sí hangiar.” He feels strongly about it. “Students today have been turned into reward seekers. But Ilan, if there is order in chaos then there is concentration in dissipation. In the classroom and outside, we should not penalize them for taking it easy. Instead, when learning we should make them feel as if they are just having a good time. So they think they are fooling you, but in fact you’re fooling them. After all, isn’t Hispanic culture about knowing how to saborear el momento?”
I like the idea of turning the expression on its head. I’m reminded of a beautiful line by Borges: “yo vivo, yo me dejo vivir.” I live, I let myself live.