Sunday, March 08, 2009

I thought I’d come across a new bit of Spanglish the other day, as is in this sentence - “Pontevedra FC tiene chance para estar entre los cuatro primeros.” However, my Spanish friends tell that, in this case, the word ‘chance’ is French in origin. But I have my doubts. By the way, it’s pronounced ‘chan-thé’.

But a real Spanish word that’s new to me is ‘calabobos’. This comes from ‘calar’ [to wet through] and ‘bobo’ [idiot] and means ‘drizzle’. In other words, rain so fine it will soak you if you’re dumb enough not to realise it’s falling.

A day after writing about how Spanish companies treat their customers, I can’t resist citing this report about a Telefónica client taking 18 months and ending up in court in order to terminate an internet service. Given how much badwill there is towards the country’s national and regional monopolies – whether de jure or de facto – it’s understandable the companies will go to any lengths to keep them in place. They surely don’t want the floodgates opened so that their customers can desert them as quickly at BT’s did a decade or so ago. Of course, it must help that, when the government changes, the head of your company relinquishes his position to a close friend of the incoming President.

I’ve suggested Gordon Brown has his work cut out getting a new world order in place when national interest is so much to the fore. And when most – if not all – nations are implementing protectionist measures of one sort or another. Indeed, some see the Americans as the worst offender in this regard, with one commentator making the point that, when it comes to free trade, “Washington has more in common with French president Nicolas Sarkozy than with Gordon Brown”. Which is more than a tad worrying.

On the topical issue of what form the EU will emerge from the crisis in, there are two interesting views from the UK today. The first of these is from a German lady who used to be a Europhile but has clearly gone native. She explains why here, suggesting Brussels has little choice but to return some powers to the nation states. Specifically on the ex-boom states of Spain, Ireland, Greece and Portugal, she comments that “One option for these countries is to leave the European monetary union. This can't be ruled out but it would create problems for both the country leaving and, perhaps more importantly, those remaining, so some short term fix may be cobbled together. The problem is that within EMU, the only way for these countries to regain competitiveness is to squeeze their economies so that the rate of inflation not only falls below the eurozone average, but also stays there for a long time, to make up lost ground. This would not be an easy task at the best of times but, when average inflation is already low, it implies actual deflation. I doubt that this would be politically sustainable.” Or, as I was saying, no gain without pain. The question being how much pain is tolerable?

The other comment deals with the allegation of schadenfreude levied against British sceptics. As the writer says, “It is not in our interest to have economic chaos on our doorstep.”

Incidentally, I can’t say I’ve seen many articles in the Spanish press – even the business sections – posing the question of whether the EU or its monetary union [EMU] can survive. And what it could mean for Spain in any of the various cases. Actually, I haven’t seen any. Perhaps the notion of failure is considered too ridiculous to contemplate. Or perhaps everyone has their heads in the sand. Especially the President.


mike the trike said...

Colin have you come across "las tres Marías" and "jueves" while walking on the street?

Keefieboy said...

When I changed my ISP from Telefonica to Jazztel a few months ago, I expected a bit of argy-bargy from the Telefonica side. However, they actually cut us off almost immediately, before Jazztel had got their act together with our new service. We still get a monthly bill from Telefonica, for about 3 Euros. I don't know what that's for, but we are enjoying paying 40 Euros a month for landline and Internet, a compared to the 80-odd that Telefonica were stealing from us.

Sierra said...

I would have thought the DT writers should be more worried about their living room than their doorstep - still if your writing articles in Australia for a British paper it must be difficult getting a feel of what's happening there.

Anthea said...

Having come across the use of "chances" by Spanish chess players to mean "opporunities" or "possibilities", I would disagree with the idea that the Spanish have borrowed it from the French. "La chance" in French means "luck" or "fortune", not quite the same thing. Of course there is just a chance that the English borrowed it from the French in the first place and took the opportunity to change its meaning!