Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cursing and Tacos

So, ever since I came back from Italy, I've been sort of irritated (as I indicated in the last post) by how surly Spanish people can seem. It isn't so much a matter of content or language so much as it is about tone. If someone doesn't like something, they say an interjection and then complain about it in a really negative tone. This is in comparison to the Italians Hannah lives with, who never seemed negative.

It took me a while, but I think I've found the reason. If the Italians were angry about something, they would just curse about it. They would call whatever they didn't like cazzo (not sure about the exact definition, but I don't think it matters), but with such a calm demeanor that had the word not been explained to me, I would have no idea there was any negative sentiment. The content of the sentence conveyed the emotion sufficiently well that it was unnecessary to use anything other than a calm voice.

In Castilian Spanish, on the other hand, the range of curses seems extremely limited. By the way, an expletive is a "taco", which confused me quite a bit at first. I thought Pilar was telling me that she was making tacos for dinner, which made me really excited, especially since Spanish food is seeming awfully bland lately. I think I accidentally betrayed my disappointment. Anyway, although there are exceptions, the vast majority of curses are used as exclamatory interjections. Generally, you use them either to show surprise or use them to mark the fact that you are about to say something that makes you angry. For instance you would say, "joder, the government is fool of crooks," with the most indignation as possible on joder, continuing with disgust on the rest of the statement.

My theory, and if anyone knows anything about this, please let me know, is that the surly tones may be a linguistic necessity. Since there are no expletives capable of distinguishing which part of the statement you're so angry about, you just have to do it through intonation. In English, you could say "the government is full of [expletive] crooks" or "the [expletive] government is full of crooks" or even "[expletive] the [expletive] [expletive] government is [expletive] full of [expletive] crooks." You don't even need to change your vocal tone - your feelings are obvious. Since Castellanos can't do this, they have to use tone to convey anger or disgust. The initial interjection is just to indicate that they are, in fact, trying to intensify the statement and didn't just have a bad day. Also, since none of their expletives are really that bad (Pilar uses all the standard ones pretty frequently, although she denies it), even using one as an interjection doesn't really convey a lot of feeling.

I lie. Gilipollas ("jerk") can be used as a noun, but I don't really think it's that vulgar.

On an unrelated note, I went to a bar last night that does intercambios or language exchanges every Wednesday. It was pretty cool, though no good stories. I just chatted with a lot of people from really different backgrounds.

Second unrelated note: I'm thinking of going to this festival, Las Falles, in which they basically burn things all night. I was planning on taking a bus down Thursday night, waking up Friday morning in Valencia, hanging out, and then taking the bus back early Saturday morning. I figure I don't want to pay for a hostel and I don't want to sleep anyway, lest I would miss the fires. Sounds awesome, right?

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