Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blogger David Jackson - who lives down in Andalucia - recently vented his spleen at the use of Gallego as the default language for tourism sites. One can certainly empathise with him while still finding his headline - Eh? Galician? That's not a language! - rather provocative. Naturally enough, it prompted a thread which was both illuminating because of the exchanges between David and [another Brit?] Axe Grinder and depressing because of the sheer volume of invective spewed out by angry Gallegos and others. I did, of course, refer to an apparent Spanish fondness for personal abuse yesterday but, when I was researching something else this afternoon, I came across these comments in John Hooper's book "The Spaniards". The stresses are mine:- The characteristic that the Spaniards themselves are most aware of is their 'individualismo'. By this they don’t mean what Anglo Saxons mean by ‘individualism’, i. e. something like eccentricity. They mean self-centredness. Their traditionally egotistical outlook on life helps to explain two of the recurring themes in Spanish history – their reluctance to sacrifice any part of their own interests to the common good and their intolerance of other people’s views. The 'individualismo' of the Spaniards is still one of their most obvious traits. But the vindictive edge to it is progressively less evident.

Anyway, here is but one example of what I'm talking about, on the [retaliatory] question of whether English is a language. Sadly, the author vitiates his [essentially correct] opinion by larding it with gratuitous abuse:- Is English really a language? No, it is not. It is just a creole, a mixture of two dialects: a Germanic dialect spoken only by barbarian and rustic people (Old Saxon) and the pathetic Latin dialect spoken by the Normans (some sort of extremely corrupted French, which, in turn, is another extremely corrupted form of Latin spoken by another barbarian tribe, the Francs). In fact, during the Norman domination of England, the Germanic dialects were about to disappear completely in favour of, let’s call it, "French". When "English" was (re)imposed as the language of the Kingdom, it was already an ineffable creole, as it is today, more similar to spitting than to actual speaking. Of course, he's wrong that English was [re]imposed but this is hardly his main point. Which is not only that English is a bastard language [true] but also horrible to listen to [a matter of opinion]. I'm guessing this is because he's heard someone on the radio say "Khello. Khave joo khad any Khome English classes jet?"

For those who speak Spanish or Gallego, there are [?]better examples in the thread. Trawling through them, I had to marvel once again at the vast range of personal insults favoured by those Spanish contributors who seem to think hurling these is equivalent to putting forward an eloquent counter-argument. Amidst all the vitriol the word 'troll' popped up several times, giving the impression this is a Spanish favourite. Though it's not yet recognised by the Royal Academy. I wonder if it has this degree of celebrity in the Anglo bit of the blogosphere. And I also wonder whether Hooper was right to suggest vindictiveness is less evident in Spain these days. But perhaps it's just on the internet that it isn't.

Which, naturally, takes us back to the racism storm of the last week . . . In an article about some Argentinean athletes showing their affection for the Chinese by making the famous slant-eyed gesture, there appeared this comment about this:- The rows sparked by the [Spanish] photos have highlighted how standards about the acceptability of racial stereotyping vary widely between countries, even in the West. Much of the criticism of the Spanish teams has come from the English-speaking blogosphere, prompting complaints from Spain about alleged Anglo-Saxon hostility to Madrid’s 2016 Olympic bid. Actually, there were also suggestions the row had been manufactured to help the US basketball team against its Spanish opponents last Saturday. But anyone watching the game and noticing the margin between them might well have concluded this conspiracy lacked a certain plausibility.

News today of how the economic crisis is hitting home. And away:-
1. According to El País, the number of buyers backing out of purchases of new property developments and forfeiting their deposits is causing new problems for cash-strapped developers, and
2. A spokesperson for the prostitutes' collective, Hetaira, has said working girls are complaining about the lack of clients as the slowdown reduces the number of men availing themselves of their services.

Quote of the Olympic Week

The Russian pole-vaulter proved that she is more than just a chick on a stick.


The Galician National Block [BNG] must believe the rumours that the socialist president of the Xunta is about to announce that - 'in the interests of Galicia' - he's going to call the elections for this autumn rather than next spring. For it's taken the pre-emptive step of issuing what amounts to its manifesto without notifying its socialist partner in government. I'm on record as predicting the BNG will see its 18% share of the vote fall and it looks as if we won't have long to wait to see if this is accurate or not.

Hats off to the honorary Gallego, Amancio Ortega, who set up his first Zara shop in A Coruña twenty years ago and has just steered it past its major rival Gap. Whoever they are. Ortega is said to be a shy, humble workaholic. So he must have been outstanding even before he started Zara. I'd guess he's not vindictive either.

Well, it's gone the middle of August and I've yet to receive any mail. Which tends to substantiate the formal complaint of the residents of my Poio barrio that all the staff of the local post office go on vacation at the same time. Worse, the guys who collect the rubbish have gone out on strike. Which is not a good thing at the height of summer in a place where a lot of fish and seafood is consumed. I only have the bottle and paper bins outside my front door but I may have to move up-country for a while. Especially if the wind changes.

My younger daughter - the weather jinx - arrives on Thursday. Needless to say, it's forecast to rain all day. I daren't look at the prediction for Friday and beyond.

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