Sunday, January 10, 2010

El Pais today carries a survey suggesting 56% of Spaniards support the government’s plan to ban smoking in public places. Interestingly, though, the greatest antipathy to it comes from ‘young people’, who are always defined in Spain as those below 35. I imagine that, if this segment were broken down further, you’d find that young women are even more unhappy than the young men. Which raises a thought . . . Given that unemployment among the ‘young’ is above 40%, who’s paying for all the cigarettes currently being smoked by them?

El Pais did make one nice comment. It said that the percentage of people strongly objecting to the ban (36%) was higher than that normally given for the total of smokers in the country – 33%. Which rather endorses the suspicion many of us have long harboured that the latter statistic was a nonsense. Like many here.

The front page of one of our local papers today reminded me of how different things can be from the UK. It contained a long report on one of the fox-slaughtering events which take place around this time of year, together with pictures of some of the 47 creatures shot "in the interests of ecological balance.” And not for pleasure, of course..

My thanks to all those who provided Gallego words for ‘drizzle”. The one which I felt best conveyed the essence of almost-nothingness of the Bilbao variety was susuru. Perhaps because it’s close to ‘susurration’, or whispering. I’m guessing they have the same Latin origin, with susuru meaning ‘whispering rain’.

It’s always risky throwing a big stone into the boiling pond of Iberian languages but I was interested to read in Richard Ford’s Handbook that, but for the 13th century decision of Alfonso the Wise to codify his laws in Castilian, Gallego would now be the predominant tongue in the Peninsula. But I wasn’t too surprised that my Galician friends are a tad sceptical about this as, firstly, no nationalist has ever made this claim to me and, secondly, Alfonso is normally cited positively by nationalists as someone who favoured Gallego for his poetry. Not as the idiot who screwed up the chances of Gallego becoming pre-eminent.

And talking of Gallego . . . I doubt there’ll be many takers but should you be interested to know what the Conselleiro for Education in the Galician Xunta has to say about the new education law, click here for an interview with a local paper. It’s in Spanish at least.

Finally . . . It was all of ten minutes between my arrival back in Pontevedra last week and the first time someone walked into me. Though this isn’t strictly correct. As she was still facing the café she was exiting, the woman actually backed into me. And then, five minutes later, another woman forced me to stop as she moved from the shopping gallery entrance to the taxi she’d summoned. As I frequently say, the Spanish are among the most sociable and affable people on earth so this habit of comporting themselves as if they were the only person on the face of it seems rather inconsistent. Not to mention downright rude. Unless you’re Spanish, obviously. But are they unique in the world in this regard? I've lived in six countries and visited many more but can’t recall it happening elsewhere. Even in the middle of the Tehran bazaar.

I will get used to it one day. As I keep saying.


Anonymous said...

Colin: the fact that Castilian Spanish is the language of Spain and not Galician-Portuguese, is just one of the one way or the other history had to go. But we were close (if the medieval dynastic wars had gone other way) to have a super-Iberian state built from the Galician-Portuguese centre. By now we would have some Nationalist in Valladolid, trying to avoid the death of their language, Castilian, while you, perhaps from Santander, moaning about those short-sighted Castilian nationalist trying to revive their little useful language and sending you letters just in Castilian (an old version of it, of course, and written in the Galician-Portuguese orthography). And in America, of course, Galician-Portuguese, or whatever would be called, would be the one spoken.

Anonymous said...

Colin, the linguistic conflict was created by the galegophobic Spanish nationalists, very active all over Spain, heirs of Franco’s partisans, who don’t like the Galician reviving (or Catalan, or Basque). Their vote was crucial for the (Spanish nationalist) PP to win the last Galician elections, and now they (PP) had to honour their promises. But this strategy has backfired on them, because, how can you make that 33% of subjects being taught in English, as they postulate? And on the other hand, the majority of Galicians oppose it, as their public and successful demonstrations and the dozen or so of civil platforms pro-galego show. Even the Spanish nationalists are against it, as they find it not good enough for them. The result will probably benefit Galician, on the long term. On the other hand, there are so many loopholes, that it is open to all kind of abuses, from both sides. This will make of Galician, which should be an element of identity and union, as the Scots speech is in Scotland, just one of desunion (but this is precisely what the Galegophobic wanted). To start with, the 33% of teaching time in a foreign language was thought for English (the other 33% Galician, and 33% Spanish). But they don’t specify what language, nor there is need to be English. It could be French, German ... or Portuguese. So our reintegracionist friends are keeping a close eye, to see how they can do for a 33% Galicia + 33% Portuguese = 66% Galician-Portuguese. That is the nightmare scenario for those who, precisely, provoked this row. It’s going to be fun.

Anonymous said...

So imagine your friend coming to Santiago and not going to Santander ... their children taught one lesson in a horrific English, the next in Spanish, the next in Spanified Galician, the next in a poor Portuguese ... and a lot of animosity in the teachers room, among the teachers themselves ... is it worth it?