Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Knotty Words

In response to Naomi's post:

I find it interesting that while Naomi argues that Spanish is a readily accessible language and should be no different in terms of using the swear when writing, that she does, in fact, differentiate in her post--she wrote "sh*thead" and "sh*t", but then also wrote "chinga(s) tu madre" (sic), not "ch*ngas tu madre". To me, that looks like there's some implied value differentiation being made about the "realness" of the swear to the readership--as if people here might not know (or figure out) that the Spanish phrase means "fuck your mother". From the use of "sh*t", I would guess that in English she would type "f- your mother", or "f*ck your mother", so why not treat the two languages equally?

I note this because I think we pussyfoot around language a little too often, and because, as she notes, there are certain languages (and, inherently, their language communities) that are way too common and present to treat as if they are "other"; Spanish is just one example. But why are we uncomfortable typing the swear in English, but free to do so in another language? Or, more to the point--why are we uncomfortable typing them in English?

No right or wrong answers, just an interesting question for thought.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good points.

Interesting, too, because in most of the forms of Spanish it seems (to an outsider like myself) that there are an astonishing amount of euphemistic ways to swear and make indecent propositions - euphemism and double entendres as a high art form. Especially through substitutions of similar-sounding silly-actual-meaning words for 'real' curse words, along the lines of 'fudge.' Not everyone thinks the direct route is more fun than the scenic, even in swearing...

The epithets that came to my mind in answer to the question originally posed were solutions like "Ay, cabron!" Which I think of as a 'bad word' - again with the euphemisms - but technically is just "male goat/billy!"

By the time the particular fantasy Spanish English creole had marinated for however long, who knows what made-up and/or hybridized 'cool' words would have been added. There's a lot of room there for bling and bap.

-CJD

Naomi said...

Ha. Normally I just type "shit." I had to go back through and put in the asterisks because I vaguely remembered someone censoring their swear words in a previous post, and was afraid that someone would get ticked off at me. You're right that it didn't even occur to me to censor the Spanish.

MariAdkins said...

I just wanted to say that sometimes I feel like the only person in the US who didn't take Spanish in school and who doesn't speak a lick outside what I learned from Sesame Street when I was very small (most of which I no longer remember). Our school for some reason offered French and German, and I continued with the French on through college (for ten years of study total). I do know a little bit of German...

Sean M. Murphy said...

I didn't take Spanish, either, Mari--French, though I couldn't tell you why--but I've been around enough liberally peppered Espanol to recognize the odd phrase now and again. and certainly something has to be said for interpretation based on its context in story situation and otherwise English text.

Naomi, I'm not implying that you were hesitant, just that we (like "they"--the vague, amorphous, undefinable "we") are often hesitant when it comes to simply saying what is being said... what would be said.

MariAdkins said...

You're doing better than me. Our town recently started putting up bilingual signage and the stores started stocking products with bilingual packing. I pretty much know "open" and "closed" when I see it. LOLOL