September 11, 2006

Very Definitely Spanish

I've been spending a lot of time digging through my accumulated junk over the last few days, and, as is usually the case when digging through junk, I've found some fairly humorous things that I feel like blogging about.

For example, yesterday I came across a teach yourself Spanish book called Colloquial Spanish. It was originally printed in 1919, but I have the fourth, more 'modern' edition from 1963. Now, obviously this raises a whole host of questions, most obviously: why do I have a teach yourself Spanish book from 1963, when I have never attempted to learn Spanish and, furthermore, much prefer the Seventies?

But what I really want to share with you is the sort of thing a British audience was imagined to want to say in Spanish, circa 1963. Now, I should preface this with the author's claim that he doesn't intend to provide a complete guide to "the Spanish tongue"; rather, he aims to teach only "such idiomatic expressions as may be encountered in daily speech."

You know, everyday phrases like
Hay hombres que saben ocultar en su interior todos los apuros que les agobian y por fuera siempre parecen alegres y hasta chistosos,
Which is translated as, "There are men who know how to hide in their interior all the griefs that oppress them and outwardly appear happy and even humorous."

Much of the so-called 'Conversational matter' provided by the book is similarly bombastic:
Hace algunas días di mi retrato a mi amiga pero no le gústo. (A few days ago I gave my portrait to my lady friend, but she didn't like it.)

¿Quién era el médico del rey? (Who was the King's physician?)

Hablemos ahora de la guerra. (Let us speak now of the war.)
And, I think my favourite, the touchingly lachrymose:
El invierno es la estación más fría y más triste del año (Winter is the coldest and saddest season of the year.)
On the other hand, some of the phrases veer towards the delightfully surreal, such as:
Estoy hablando ruso. (I am speaking Russian.)
Ceci n'est pas un pipe.

The best parts, though, are the little dialogues that the book provides, as much for their outrageous racism as for their stiffness, eg.:
A: What does this man want?
B: I believe he wants money.
A: Why does he want money?
B: Because he is a very poor man.
A: Why is he poor?
B: Because he doesn't work.
A: Why doesn't he work?
B: Because he is lazy.
A: Why is he lazy?
B: Because he doesn't want to work.
A: Is his father also lazy?
B: Yes, he is lazy.
A: Is his mother also lazy?
B: Yes, but not so lazy as his father.
I love the way it just keeps on going, even when you begin to think that it has to end soon.

People who have been to Spain: correct me if I'm wrong, here. Perhaps Spaniards really talk like this and I am being an ignorant ass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, dude, that's totally lachrymose.


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