Monday, June 23, 2008

Mangling Spanish and Grateful Monday

I’ve got a local station on, Tejano music playing
I do my best to sing along but I don’t know what they’re saying
No le puedo entender but you know that it's alright
I’m headed down to San Antone, runnin’ with the night
—Robert Earl Keen Jr.

One of the problems I have speaking Spanish is remembering the gender of inanimate objects and concepts. (When writing, I have more time to think about it and look it up as needed.) In Spanish, everything has gender.

  • A car (carro or coche) and the sky (cielo) are male.
  • A hamburger (hamburguesa) and the earth (tierra) are both female—but dirt (suelo) is male.

Of course, the sky and the earth retain their pagan genders in many languages. Even in the English spoken in predominantly Christian nations, we refer to Mother Earth.

And Spanish has examples of gender confusion:

  • La radio (the radio) — a masculine noun with a feminine article
  • El policia (the policeman) — a feminine noun with a masculine article that indicates a male

Grateful Monday

Today when I was buying coffee, one of the staff dropped a big pile of pans. The other workers all made exaggerated noises of shock, but she calmly said, “No es un grando causa.” I believe the grammatically correct way to say this would have been, “No es una causa grande,” but, again, I am no expert. I simply smiled at gnarled Hispanic matron across the room and wished her a silent muchas gracias.


Dragonfly said...

4 years of high school spanish and all I know is "Hola. Me llamo Vicki. Como esta?" and "Donde esta el bano?" (no idea how to get the accents and tildes in)

Lee said...

Mine came back very quickly when I spent two months in Panamá and another six weeks in El Salvador. But I would have trouble conversing again today.

To get the accents, etc., hold down the alt key and type some numbers. You’ll get some wacky characters that way.

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