Is it an insult to call someone 'cabrón' in Mexico?
B: ¡Hola, cabrón!
No, it isn't exactly an insult in Mexico. It is just for a person with not a kind personality.
According to RAE definition:
adj. Méx. Dicho de una persona: De mal carácter. U. t. c. s.
Depends on context.
If it's your friend, there's nothing wrong because you are calling as a affectionate way, more or less.
For example, in Spain we have a famous corrupt treasurer called Luis Bárcenas, and in his party, the Popular Party, her colleagues calls him "Luis, el Cabrón".
But in fact it is an insult. Also a very hard one. If you don't have a close relationship with the person you should avoid it.
In México, cabrón has different meanings. The first one from your example:
B: ¡Hola, cabrón!
In this case it's just used as
man when it's used to refer to your friends, but it certainly sounds vulgar and you should avoid to use it in front of other people than your friends.
However it can also be used as an insult, example:
- Ese cabrón no se quita del camino! (that jerk/asshole won't move out of the way!)
There's also a third meaning, very common by the way, and it's used to refer to someone who is really good at something specific, for example:
- Ese wey es muy cabrón jugando fútbol (that guy is so good at playing soccer)
A: Mira cómo baila salsa ese chico(look how that guy dances salsa music)
B: Qué bien baila, está muy cabrón (he dances so good, he is really awesome at it)
These 3 meanings are used in México and I know them from my experience as a native Mexican.
Why look regionally but leave out other Spanish speaking cultures? In the Caribbean, a cabrón is less than a man. A cabrón is a man who's woman is cheating on him (giving him horns. Hence the root word cabrón/goat) knows about it and does nothing.
When dealing with friends its permissible to call your friend cabrón but it's usually used in a context to get their attention or to express a deep emotion and to joke around
Ah. No seas cabrón.
Jajajaja, qué cabrón eres.
In these instances, to us, it's akin to asshole or fucker.
México is not the only one that uses that word. I've seen a Mexican get knocked out for calling a Puertorican he didn't know cabrón.
Yes, if it's someone you don't know well.
No, if it's someone you know well and have an informal, comfortable teasing relationship with.
In addition to the other meanings given on this page (including jerk, tough, cuckold, incredibly good at something, dude), another meaning is
Example: A young couple had a baby. These young people were university students but were unbelievably ignorant about basic science, e.g. genetics. A whole saga took place because the young man didn't feel the baby looked like him. All their friends and acquaintances became embroiled in the debate about whether the young woman had been unfaithful (e.g. "No creo que Chela sea cabrona"). The young man pressured the young woman to have another baby right away. I learned this usage from hearing the saga through the paper-thin walls between their apartment and mine.
I'll talk about its usage in Spani, altough I'm pretty sure it works in other places, such as Colombia.
It depends on how you say it. The intonation will show your intentions.
IF you say it in a friendly way, it's not an insult. Caution: this implies being effusive, warmly. For example:
Ey, eres un cabrón.
Said warmly, it means that you've been smart, it's like "nice move", you're a master. So this is good. It's actually (uh you beat me, I could feel dissapointed/offended, but I don't, because I admire your intelligence of doing that move, you're a good one". So it becomes a good thing.
It can also be used for lazy people. IT's like "you don't bother to move your ass and you don't care what people say". Yes, thath's a bad thing, but it is understood as "you manage yourself to save work, altough many people don't like it, but they don't dislike it so, so much. So you end up getting what you want without effort. Good move". And yes, that's a good thing, or at least not a bad thing haha.
HOWEVER, if you use that very sentence speaking seriously, or angrily, iti s definitely an insult. It's all about if you're showing joke or seriousness when saying it. I know, Spanish is hard haha.