Puerta del Sol: Language

Hazme un beso

July 2, 2006


Lively interview in today's El País with novelist Javier Marías (there's a good article about him here from The New Yorker). Last week, Marías, who is often photographed touching his chin, was elected to the Real Academia, and the interview suggests that, like his fellow academicians, he despairs for the future of the Spanish language. "Lo más grave ha ocurrido en los últimos 20 años, y poco puede hacer la Academia; es que se ha perdido lo que yo llamaría la instalación en la lengua. Tengo la sensación de que las palabras y la lengua no son algo que las personas tienen asido [fully grasp]. Son algo que está flotando como un magma en torno a los hablantes. No hay una posesión verdadera. Antes se hablaba mejor o peor, con un léxico más o menos rico, pero la gente se expresaba con una cierta elocuencia siendo rico o pobre, instruido o analfabeto. Hoy mismo, en una entrevista para la radio, hablando del Real Madrid, equipo que me gusta y que está fatal, el periodista me ha dicho "no quiero restañarte [stanch you] en la herida", cuando lo que quería decir era que "no quería ahondar en mi herida". Esto es frecuentísimo. Se están perdiendo los verbos específicos. Otro ejemplo: hay quien dice hazme un beso [do me a kiss] en lugar de dame un beso [give me a kiss]. O hizo un crimen horrible [he did a horrible crime], en lugar de cometió un crimen horrible. Se recurre al verbo hacer para casi todo. Se ha perdido el uso de palabras tan cómodas y fáciles de usar como "cuyo". ¿Qué pasa con esta sopa boba en la que la gente parece flotar?" We use ever fewer specific verbs: dar is used all the time instead. Marías sees policitians as largely responsible: "En Madrid la gente habla como perros y los primeros son los políticos. Lo que dicen los políticos sale en los medios de comunicación todos los días, lo merezcan o no. Y aunque un político no sea una autoridad lingüística, sí tiene autoridad. La gente cree que si habla con la pomposidad o frases vacuas de los políticos va a ser más importante." People believe that if they speak pompously or with the empty phrases of politicians, it will make them more important. Sadly, they're probably right, since it is from the mouths of the powerful that the emptiest phrases generally issue.


Paddington Bear Meets Speedy Gonzalez

May 19, 2006

If a lion could talk, Wittgenstein said, we could not understand him. But at least we can try. Quiquiriquí! Thanks to Derek Abbot for taking the time and providing the fun. (via kottke.org.)


To Morrissey, with Love

April 14, 2006


Listening to late-night BBC radio, I hear that in Los Angeles a new Spanglish verb has entered the language. Apparently it's being used by members of Morrissey's legion of fans among the L.A. Hispanic community, and here it is: "to Morrissey" = to sell flowers. Takes me back to a night in Manchester oh, many years ago, when I'd been hanging around with the Smiths all day together with a mate of mine who knew Johnny Marr. They were due to play that night at the Hacienda. Morrissey, a slightly more aloof, eccentric figure than he seems to be now, was late for the soundcheck and nobody knew where he was. He got back and told us that the place where he normally bought his flowers, the ones in his back pocket as he sang, had been shut and he'd had to walk miles to find a florist's that was open. So there it is: to Morrissey. What a great writer of song lyrics the man is.


Perhaps one of the few countries left...

March 16, 2005

...Where "Hugo" is one of the most popular choices of name. I've met someone by the name of everyone on this list, but I must confess that I have yet to meet a "Nereas".


Endangered Species

February 25, 2005

University language students in the UK are apparently an endangered species, with the only rise in numbers coming with students of Spanish and (for reasons I'm not clear about) Portuguese. On a related subject, perhaps some kind soul would like to buy this new book for me. "Did you know," as the New Statesman review says, "that the word 'Semitic', as a family of languages which includes Hebrew, stems from the name Shem, second son of Noah, and was not applied linguistically until 1781? Or that Sumerian, an extinct Semitic language, had a special dialect for use only by women? Or that the clay patties on which these languages were written have survived only because they were baked in the fires started by Alexander the Great's conquering soldiers?" Well, no I didn't. But I'm glad I do now.


February 8, 2005

... is the first of its kind - a comprehensive review of the latest in Spanish-language publishing - written in English." That's what it says about itself. Looks interesting.


Language learning in Michigan

January 7, 2005

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If you're a student (living in Michigan and elsewhere) and subscribing to PdS, then apparently it'll help you get a job. This piece provides inspiration for those who sometimes wonder whether the struggle to learn a second language is really worth it. And then when you do get the job, then this is worth bearing in mind. This link from Wikipedia, meanwhile, provides information which should be handed out to all students on Day 1. There's a further inspirational language learning story here. (Thanks to Kuro5hin, which by strange coincidence also features a piece on Wikipedia.)

As for the picture, it's only there because I like it. I don't believe it was taken in Michigan.

Just found and apropos of nothing: A by Spanish-speaking bloggers blogging in English. (Thanks to eCuaderno.) 


PdS Latest Issue

November 30, 2004

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The new issue of Puerta del Sol is finally out. A fairly sexy cover, I hope you'll agree...


Spanish as She is Spoke

November 24, 2004

Spain is apparently considered by academics to be one of the places where Castilian is worst spoken. More here, in quite good Spanish. Meanwhile, the RAE's new Diccionario panhispanico de dudas is out: an article in the Times, here, states that the mammoth, 22-country project is designed to stem the global tide of English. It probably won't manage that, but it'll be worth buying anyway.

A language for loving and for scolding

August 16, 2004

A nice little article here on why the Guarani language should not succumb to Spanish. Surely bilingualism is always for the best? (Courtesy of Anil Dash).