Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Gerund watch: Two more sightings this week, one real and one illusory. The latter was ranking but this turns out to be not the gerund but the English noun used to mean the same thing in Spanish. The genuine article was un smoking . This is a type of jacket and the word has been in use for so long that it is sometimes seen in its Hispanicised form, un esmoquin.

A lovely vignette of Spanish life today. As I was coming out of the post office, I held the door open for a woman coming in. The woman behind me, clearly confused by something she had never seen before, moved past me straight into the path of the woman in front of me. Neither stopped, of course, and as they met in the middle of the doorway they performed the perfect paso pragmatico. This is a distant relative of the paso doble and involves nimbly sidestepping someone you are about to bump into without looking into their face and without saying a word. The nice thing about it is that no one loses face. I wonder if bullfighting started this way.

One of the obituaries in El Mundo yesterday was for the famous Canadian actress Suzanne Cloutier, who apparently gave us the best ever interpretation of Desdemona. Today we had the equally illustrious German baritone, Hans Hotter. The others were of people rather less well known.

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