A Post on Language

Hi, wonderful readers!  I’ve been hiding and having little and/or big crises, depending on your point of view.  What happens to me when I simply can’t deal is that I see random internet-y things and some will make me laugh uncontrollably, while others will make me cry.  Darling fellow writer and blogger extraordinaire Thyra10 shared this video on Facebook and I cried and cried – even though it’s actually heartwarming.  I had no choice but to share it on my own Facebook wall… and then this happened:

Facebook face palm

Even though I don’t understand Spanish… ? !

Um… WHAT?!  Many of you know that I speak Spanish fluently, and my friend on Facebook knows this too.  I was hoping she meant to type “Swedish” instead of “Spanish” and auto-correct failed her.  Sadly, that was not the case.  She truly thought that the video she had just watched was in Spanish.  Readers not from the U.S., please, don’t make fun of us.  I assure y’all that nobody else made this mistake.

A few days after, Thyra10 posted this article about Scandinavian languages and I laughed, and laughed… because even though I only speak two languages well, and butcher a third and fourth to pieces, I understand the fun she was poking at the Scandinavians and their languages AND their dialects.  It’s fascinating that we all seem to have the same problems around the world.  I encounter it at home: hubby’s family is from El Salvador and I’m from Puerto Rico.  Many words are different even though both countries speak Spanish.  Apparently in El Salvador, a “chele,” is an eye-booger (yeah, I don’t have another word for them in English), and “chele,” to me, is a meaningless word.  Ask me what I think of when I see a Hyundai Azera.  Here’s a hint: “acera” in Spanish is sidewalk.  Of course, Spanish in the Americas has been influenced by native languages, but Spanish in Spain also has its share of influences, words like “reloj” (used interchangeably for clock and watch), “pared” (wall), “almohada” (pillow), “nube” (cloud) are all from Arabic, for example.  Yet, I could probably hold a very slow conversation with somebody who spoke Portuguese or Italian… as long as my Portuguese friend remembers that if she says she is “embarazada,” I’m going to think she’s pregnant, as opposed to embarrassed.

That brings me to the one thing we’ve been fighting here in the United States, a lot!  The U.S. does NOT have an official language.  NONE.  It has a de facto language, the one we all agree to speak, and that would be English.  The Federal government has never declared one language for the whole nation, probably because there are so many languages spoken among American Indians.  Actually, that’s my own speculation, not a fact, but considering that the U.S. is an amalgamation of many territories throughout its history, choosing just one language must not have been very high on the list of things to do.  I’m one of those who thinks that to live in a country, one ought to know at least a little of that country’s language.  But, I make a concession that to lose one’s own language while learning another, is a sure way to lose one’s identity… or gain a new one.  After all, us Puerto Ricans do not go parking our cars as others who speak Spanish might.  While the correct translation of “to park the car” would be “estacionar el automóvil,” it’s way easier to simply say “parquear el carro.”  Roll your R’s at the back of the throat, like they do in French 😀

I was going to wax poetic about culture and language, but then I remembered I’m going through some rough patches and I’d rather laugh than cry.  So here are some of the funny things we Puerto Ricans say that will fit any occasion.  These are idiomatic expressions (they have a cultural meaning as well) so my translations are as close as I can get within the confines of English.  Have fun!

  • Estoy como sapo de letrina – I’m like a toad in a latrine (said when one is full after a meal)
  • Cuando la rana eche pelo – when the frog grows hair (said when one is waiting to buy something expensive)
  • La piña está agria – the pineapple is sour (when one has no money – yeah, I don’t get it either; aren’t pineapples sour already?)
  • ¡Me cago en diez! – I shit on ten! (exclaimed when you’ve had it, but ten of what, who knows?)
  • ¡Bendito! – You poor thing! (actually it translates to “blessed,” but said with the connotation that you feel bad for the other person)
  • Bochinche – gossip, a very Puerto Rican word
  • Más jincho que nalga de monja – whiter than a nun’s bun (yeah, THAT bun)
  • Irse para el carajo – to go to the “carajo.”  Nobody knows where it is, but it’s not pleasant.  You can send people there or just exclaim it out loud, and it’s usually followed by…
  • ¡Coño! – that’s a bad word we learned from the Spaniards

  • Del lobo un pelo – from the wolf, a hair.  When you don’t get the complete result or the desired result, only some, but it’s better than none (my mom says this a lot)
  • Más perdido que un juey bisco – more lost than a cross eyed crab (never seen one)

These are fun!  There’s a whole list here, but I’d love to here your funny words or sayings in English or your own mother tongue.