martes, 9 de agosto de 2022

LEARNING TWO LANGUAGES



I believe that with patience and time we can always find exact equivalents in meaning for idiomatic expressions. These phrases may differ in their word components but keep the same meaning. A good example are: "atarse (apretarse) los machos" and "batten down the hatches." 

María Moliner says about "apretarse los machos": "Prepararse para afrontar una situación difícil."

The Oxford dictionary explains about "batten down the hatches": "Prepare for a difficulty or crisis."

One has a nautical origin and the other a bullfighting one.  



sábado, 6 de agosto de 2022

UGLINESS AND LANGUAGE



For some strange reason, ugliness, homeliness, is nobody´s cup of tea. I don´t like this because many of us have to jump into the fray of life at a disadvantage. Those who have been favored by Nature have it made! And language reflects this negative attitude toward the ugly by supplying speakers with many tools to taunt them. English and Spanish have a wide range of possibilities to describe those who are not attractive:

UGLY

Ugly as sin (a toad, butt ugly, fuck, shit, cat shit, piss-ugly, pug ugly, hell, as it gets) Más feo que un pecado (Picio, Carracuca, el hambre, el bu, Quasimodo, que pegarle a un padre [con un calcetín sudado], feo del culo, feo con ganas, como él solo, el trasero de un mono) // Victor is ugly as a sin Víctor es más feo que un pecado  // “That new pharmacy is an assault to my eyes; it is everything the LPA is supposed to stop! It is a big box, ugly as sin itself, a monstrosity.” Bonita Daily News, FL - 11 Jul 2003. USA.


viernes, 5 de agosto de 2022

MAKING BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES



Putting a bilingual dictionary together is a fool´s errand, especially in a team of one (an oxymoron). I have been working on my Bilingual Phrasebook for well over three years, at a pace of 4 to 5 hours a day. My fear is that some expressions, and idioms, may be left out. Yesterday I asked Laura Carbonell, an expert teacher of both languages and the author of the Spanish Grammar Cheat-Sheet, to randomly think of an idiom in Spanish. She put forward "saltar al ruedo". It was not in the dictionary! Hard to believe, but it shows that lexicography is more of an art than a science. Of course, I am not done yet, and I still have a lot of revising and editing to do. 

RUEDO

Echarse (lanzarse, tirarse, saltar) al ruedo (a la palestra) Jump (step, move, leap, rush) into the fray

David ha saltado al ruedo de la política activa David has jumped into the fray of active politics

“Felipe González ha saltado al ruedo con gran aparato eléctrico porque sabe que va perdiendo.” La Vanguardia, 15/11/1994. Esp.


  

jueves, 4 de agosto de 2022

ACADEMIC (VANITY) PUBLISHERS



I am again in pursuit of a Publisher and I know that they are not what they used to be. Before I reach out to them, I read their web page to make sure I am not sending a feeler into a den of thieves. Vanity presses disguise as bona fide enterprises to lure the writer or researcher. Today I perused W.W. Norton´s Web page and saw the number of useless titles they publish. Are they vanity? I read "If you wish to send a letter to an author, please send it to our offices... we will kindly forward it on." This reminds me of the dictum from the Bible: "If the blind lead the blind..." People in the publishing business who don´t know how to write (or is it rite, right?) or even edit. Suck on that! After this, I opened the University of Texas Press, and more of the same except it is piled higher and deeper. Vanity Press again? A certain Alberto Moreiras has been published there, a title that reads like this "Notes from an Ex-Latin Americanist." I am the first to admit that my English (and Spanish, for that matter) has a long way to go, but I find those words ill-put together. So, another academic publisher I must discard. Reading the titles these people publish, I am getting to think they have taken leave of their business senses.  

miércoles, 3 de agosto de 2022

NO IMPORTAR VS NOT TO GIVE



 To express our indifference about what someone does, thinks, or wants, we use the expression "I don´t give..." and here we can add a variety of words like a hoot, two shakes, a damn, a darn, a fuck, a shit, a toss... instead of a simple "I don´t care." Why does language do that? To show different degrees of our indifference and reaction. There is a difference between "I don´t give a hoot" and "I don´t give a fuck." 

In Spanish for "no importar" we will add, for emphasis, "un rábano, pimiento, carajo, bledo, comino, ardite, cuerno, pepino, pito, una mierda, tres puñetas, tres cojones" There is a difference between "no me importa un pimiento" and "no me importa un carajo." 

All those tags add degrees of indifference, relationship with the speaker, emotional state, also variety, and glamour (?). 

martes, 2 de agosto de 2022



Austin Williams has a YouTube channel on frugality, austerity, and simplicity. He speaks well, has a way with words, nice voice and I just plain like him. He spent two years in Ecuador teaching English and he manages to sprinkle a few words and sentences in Spanish in his talks. But, horrors and procrastination, he tries to imitate Equatorian street Spanish, to sound more authentic I presume, but the result is a disaster. Somehow -I ignore where this has come from- learners of languages try to mimic low-class, low-brow, uneducated Spanish and English believing this type of language is more "authentic" and "real." If Williams ever tried to land a job using this kind of language, he would not get it, unless he was applying for a dog catcher position in New York City. So, please, try to sound literate and educated in any language because you will be better understood and win more friends.
Do not say in Spanish: 
Na, pa, haiga, amos, sausté, m´ha dicho, bailemos, ca... and many others. 


lunes, 1 de agosto de 2022

LANGUAGE AND FOSSILS



A fossil is "any remains, impression, or trace of a living thing of a former geologic age, as a skeleton, footprint, etc." Language does not have fossils predating writing, prior to over 5000 years ago. We don´t know how language was invented by man, or how it has been evolving ever since. It does not escape evolution and is ever-changing, at a very swift pace. All languages spoken today have evolved from the original sounds to which meanings were attached without any missing links. We have no clues, no fossils, to show us this evolution prior to the invention of writing. 5000 years in the history of man are nothing, a flash in the pan. Beware of theories about language evolution. They all have something in common because they were invented by man.