Saturday, November 24, 2007

The new film about Elizabeth I has been panned in the UK for its distortion of English history. However, the British historian, Henry Kamen, says this is nothing compared with the liberties taken with Spanish history. These he listed in a long article in El Mundo or El Pais this week. My guess is the film will do nothing to reduce the widespread Spanish view of the British as arrogant. Or at least those of them not busy being uncivilised ooligans.

Casual swearing is even more common in Spain than in the UK. Both the F and C words appear regularly in conversation here and even on the TV. A nice example – My petite daughter of 30 this week went for an interview with a director of a company looking for an hour or two of English teaching a week. As she walked in, his comment was “Joder! Que joven.” Or “Fuck! You look young”.

I don’t suppose there were many viewers who realised that the chap who sang both national anthems at Wednesday’s ritual suicide of the English football team made a mistake with his Croat. Specifically – and much to the delight of the relevant section of the crowd – he mis-pronounced a key line and instead of "You know, my dear, how we love your mountains" he sang "My dear, my penis is a mountain". After this fine start, things just got better and better for the Croats. And their pride ended up as large as their penises.

Something similar once happened to a teacher in Iran. How can I make this simple? . . . 1. The Iranian way of saying ‘my’ is the suffix am, as in ketabam, or my book. 2. The famous Persian poet is Omar Khyam. 3. The Iranian for cojones is kay. 4. If you read some poetry to a class of 15 year old girls and then ask them ‘What do you think of Khyam?”, it pays to get the pronunciation right.

I’m on record as saying several times over the last 10 years that history would view the Blair/Brown government as one of the worst ever. Surveying the wreckage of the last few weeks, I’m feeling rather smug, on two grounds. Firstly, the claim is beginning to look irrefutable and, secondly, I don’t live in the UK anymore.

Finally, isn’t language fascinating? The Spanish verb acertar, which I’ve always thought meant To get right, turns out to also mean To guess. Which can be a tad confusing. All in the context, acierto. Anyway, here’s the source of my new knowledge:--

Dos ingleses se encuentran en un camino. Uno de ellos llevaba una bolsa al hombro.
- ¿Qué tienes en la bolsa? - dice el otro.
- Pollos - responde el primero.
- Si acierto cuántos llevas, ¿puedo quedarme con uno?
- Si aciertas, puedes quedarte con los dos.
- Bueno, pues... ¡Cinco!

4 comments:

Graeme said...

In one of my first ever Spanish classes, we had a teacher who I think was Mexican, and who spoke a Spanish where the difference between the B and the V is irrelevant from a pronunciation point of view. So there we were getting to grips with basic Spanish pronunciation when she announced to the class "if you are having problems with your bowels then let me know". Nobody said a word.

Enrique said...

Humor in both Spanish and Persian, bravo. You made my morning.

Colin said...

Thanks, Enrique.

Colin said...

Thanks, Graeme. Bery funny.