Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Much consternation today in the USA over Janet Jackson’s liberated boob [regularly re-aired in all its strange whiteness on Sky News] and even more consternation in the UK over Johnny Rotten’s use of the well-known phrase ‘fucking cunts’ on British TV last night. This, in contrast, has yet to be re-shown on Sky TV. Given that there is even greater taboo associated with the C word in the USA, I don’t suppose Johnny’s slip of the tongue will be reported outside the HBS channel, if there. I see, by the way, that the C word is not recognised by Word’s Spellcheck facility. But then neither is Spellcheck. It’s almost a relief to see that they don’t claim to be ignorant of the F word.

All of which is very odd to Spanish eyes. And ears. For, believe it or believe it not, the C word here is a term of endearment so innocuous that it is used regularly on TV and on the street, usually alto voce, when old friends meet. Here, if you really want to insult and infuriate someone, you have to call them a cabrón. Which just means billy goat. Hijo de puta [son of a whore] might just do the trick, though I can never figure out why this is much of an insult when de puta madre [of a whore mother] is a great compliment. Ah, cultures and their inconsistent norms.

Speaking of which, I have yet to write my Spain v. Britain piece, but on this theme of the moment, I was gratified to read the following last night in the opening pages of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalunia:-

I defy anyone .. not to be struck by [the Spaniards’] essential decency; above all by their straightforwardness and generosity. …. And beyond this there is generosity in a deeper sense, a real largeness of spirit.

Every foreigner .. spent his first few weeks in learning to love the Spaniards and in being exasperated by certain of their characteristics. ….. All foreigners alike are appalled by their inefficiency, above all by their maddening unpunctuality. …. In Spain, nothing, from a meal to a battle, ever happens at the appointed time.

So, not much has changed in nearly 70 years then, positive or negative. Thank God.

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