Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.4.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.

Starting off rather negatively - if you've glossed over the above quote  . . . . The Spanish cartoonist, Forges (Antonio Fraguas), has gone into print with a devastating attack on 'Spain's mediocrity'. You can read it in English at the end of this post. Sadly, it's all pretty accurate. In my humble estimation. My thanks to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for alerting me to this article this morning.

So . . . What is wrong with these 2 sentences, as least for speakers of British English?:-
  • Local paper: Three times canoeing world champion Óscar Graña has saved a woman from drowning in the river Lérez in Pontevedra (Galicia) – for the second time.
  • National UK paper: And even if the timeline fit, it would be difficult for MPs to select and coalesce around a single candidate in such a short space of time.

Talking of bad English . . .  I discovered last night that a Spanish site from which I'd been printing out info in respect of a September camino also had an English version. I was a bit miffed with myself for not noticing this until I'd finished but then I read this sentence about a church in Pontevedra and decided I'd unwittingly done the right thing: Latin plant and pointed style. So, not translated by a native speaker. As ever.

In a surprise move - and one totally resisted by the Spain's most senior legal officers - the President, Sr Rajoy, has been called to testify in the biggest corruption case currently going through the courts. See here on this. should be interesting. Or, more likely, not as he's likely to duck all the questions. As he has done for years.

The latest example of Spanglish: El overbooking.

Here's my final extracts from the second volume of Arturo Barea's The Forging of a Rebel. By this time he's living in the  Madrid of the mid 1920s:-
  • Sanchez came from a wealthy, middle-class family. His parents had given him a solid education; he had studied for a commercial career, at a time when such studies seemed a novel and preposterous thing to do in Spain.
  • [The comment of Barea's boss when Barea resisted the pressure on him to marry his daughter, responding to Barea's question about how his daughter felt about marrying him]. The girl does what I want her to do. And, anyway, women don't know which men they like or not, so long as they haven't been to bed with their first.
  • [The comments of his father-in-law about the state of the marriage with his daughter] I want to speak seriously with you. You've got a lot of modern ideas in your head and want to change the world. But now look here. A woman is either married, and in that case she has got to keep the house clean and feed the kids, or else she's a bitch and a street-walker. So don't set your mind on something different. The man must support his home and children, that's his business. And if you've got an itch to amuse yourself . . . well, you go and find a woman somewhere, amuse yourself without a scandal, and that's all there is to it. If you go on as you are, it will come to a bad end.
  • [Barea's response] All right. But I think only a fool would marry just to have a woman in his bed. What I want is that my wife should be my best friend, besides being my bedfellow.
  • [The father-in-law's reaction] Pooh, that's just romantic nonsense. Look, a man marries to have a home of his own and a woman to nurse him when he's ill and to look after his children. And everything else is just modern claptrap.
  • [Barea] But if one's wife differs only from other women only by the colour of her hair, the cut of her face, and the shape of her body, she becomes one among the many women who are attractive to the man, with the disadvantage of being close to hand day and night and having her attraction submitted to the relentless test of proximity without tenderness.
  • [Advice to Barea from an old male friend] The problem is complicated in detail but simple in its general outline. You see, in Spain boys and girls grow up in two separate water-tight compartments. The boy is told he mustn't go near the girls or play with them, and if he does it all the same, he's called a cissy. The girls are taught that boys are beastly and brutal, and a girl who likes playing with them is not a 'little woman' but a tomboy, which is considered something very bad. Later, the school teachers get busy teaching the boys that Woman is a vessel of impurity and teaching girls that Man is the incarnation of the Evil Spirit, created only for the perdition of women. So the boys form their masculine society, and when sex awakens, the young man goes to the brothel to learn about it and the young woman sits and waits until one of the men who come glutted from the brothels invites her to go to bed with him. Then some agree to do it through matrimony and others without it, and the first become so-called decent women and the others whores. How do you expect real, complete marriages to grow from that? And will you adapt yourself to your wife or do you rather think she should adapt herself to you.? But, apart from your case, they can't do it because the whole weight of the society of their own sex is against them.

Thank-God things have changed and all that is a thing of the past . . . 

Finally . . . . Yesterday's comment of my guest, Jack, about the poor range of products in the one grocer's he went into doesn't chime with my experience. I disassociate myself from it totally. And with Jack, in fact.

Today's cartoon:-


The Triumph of the Mediocre

"Those who know me know my beliefs and ideals. Beyond these, I think the time has come to be honest. It is, above all, necessary to undertake a deep and sincere exercise of self-criticism, taking seriousness as our motto.

We have to assume that our problems will be not be solved by changing from one party to another, via another battery of urgent measures, via a general strike, or by leaping into the street to protest against each other. Perhaps the time has come to accept that our crisis is more than economic, goes beyond these or those politicians, or the greed of the bankers, or the risk premium.

We have to recognise that Spain's main problem is not Greece, the euro or Mrs Merkel.

We have to admit that we have become a mediocre country and to try to correct this.

No country achieves such a condition overnight. Or in three or four years. It is the result of a chain tha starts in school and ends in the ruling class.

We have created a culture in which the mediocre students are the most popular in the school, the first to be promoted in the office, the most heard in the media and the only ones we vote for in our elections, no matter what they do - people whose political or professional careers we do not know fully know about - if indeed they have one – merely because they are ours.

We are so accustomed to our mediocrity that we have come to accept it as the natural state of things. The exceptions, almost always confined to sport, serve to deny the evidence.

- Mediocre is the country where its inhabitants spend an average of 134 minutes a day in front of a television that shows mainly garbage.

- Mediocre is the country which since the start of democracy has not produced a single president who spoke English or had even a minimal knowledge of international politics.

- Mediocre is the only country in the world that, in its rancid sectarianism, has managed to divide even the associations of victims of terrorism.

- Mediocre is the country which has reformed its educational system three times in three decades to end up with its students at the tail of the developed world.

- Mediocre is the country which has two universities among the 10 oldest in Europe but does not have a single university among the 150 best in the world and which forces its best researchers to exile themselves in order to survive.

Mediocre is the country which has a quarter of its population unemployed, but which finds more reason to be indignant when the puppeteers of a neighbouring country joke about its athletes.

- Mediocre is the country where the brilliance of another causes suspicion, where creativity is marginalised - when not stolen with impunity - and where independence is punished.

- Mediocre is the country in which public institutions are headed b politicians who, in 48% of cases, never exercised their respective professions but found in politics the most relevant way of life.

- Mediocre is the country that has made mediocrity the great national aspiration, pursued without any shame by those thousands of young people who seek to occupy the next place in the Big Brother contest, by politicians who insult each other without promoting ideas, by bosses who surround themselves with mediocrity to hide their own mediocrity and by students who ridicule the hard-working colleagues,

- Mediocre is the country that has allowed, encouraged and celebrated the triumph of the mediocre, cornering excellence until it is left with two options: to leave or to be engulfed by the unstoppable gray tide of mediocrity.

- Mediocre is the country, which denies the existence of its mediocrity in order to shamelessly boast of its national education, and which needs the motivation of sporting successes. 


Maria said...

Yes, this is a mediocre country which celebrates its mediocrity and yet has illusions of grandeur, rubbing shoulders with others who laugh at it because they have taken the best professionals which this country has created, yet which this country considered extraneous precisely because of their excellence. The Golden Age of Spain is in the past, we are now in the Fool's Gold Age.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

I had to read your 'local paper' quote four times before I discovered what you could possibly have found to object to… Thou art a stickler, my dear friend.

As for the 'national UK paper' quote: it is obvious that Einstein is way too difficult for you to digest. If not, you would have known that space and time are merely variations of the same continuum…

Both are merely innocent slips of the pen; considerably less serious than the many typos, posh and preposterous choices of words and cases of regicide against the Queen's English that you yourself commit in your text.


Colin Davies said...

Show me you understand the second mistake by telling me what it was.

If you think I am a pedant, you should meet my Dutch friend, Peter van Santiago.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Well, if you did not mean 'space of time' (instead of the correct 'period', your objection is even more arcane than I thought…

Pedant indeed!


Colin Davies said...

Yes, I fear that's very true, Maria. But I still love Spain and, especially, its people. Though, as I've said a thousand times, it's been great to retire to but I'd really hate to work here. Even if I am used to similar cultures. Or because I am.

Colin Davies said...

@Alfie. No. 'fit' is not the past participle of 'to fit' in British English. I knew you didn't know this. I've seen your attempts at English.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Ah, my dear self-appointed moralist! That's the triviality that bothered you!

Well, first of all, I think you mean to say 'simple past' instead of 'past participle'…

Then, pretty much all the dictionaries give both 'fitted' and 'fit' for the simple past of 'to fit'

And lastly, some grammarians might well argue that this is a case of a past subjunctive, in which the 'were to' is simply implied.

But I guess that goes over your head, being a lawyer and a libertine improver of English and all that…


Colin Davies said...

As ever, wrong.

NO British person ever says 'I fit the wardrobes y'day' or 'They were fit by my husband' etc, etc.

Who do you think writes most of the dictionaries? And for whom?

See the OED, a British dictionary here:

Keep it up. You're just providing more and more evidence that you don't really understand proper English, despite your alleged academic qualifications.

Your ref to the past subjuctiive is simply preposterous. But, if it makes you happy . . .

Alfred B. Mittington said...

But I wonder what your admired and adored Mr Kamm might say about this dilemma…

After all: language is a living thing, which changes over time, and if a native writer in a National UK paper, no less, deems fit to use 'fit' as the past tense of 'to fit', does that not, according to the theories the two of you so gladly proclaim as if they were prophesies sent to earth from on high, turn the past tense 'fit' into a most acceptable new modern progressive PC variation?

Once again, my dear confused fellow, you do not practice what you preach, or preach what you practice…


Sierra said...

Surely a significant number of Brits would write "MP's", particularly if they were greengrocers!

Sierra said...


Just substitute "England" for "Spain".

Colin Davies said...

@Alfie: God Almighty: How can I make this any clearer??? One mistake does noty equate to widespread custom and practice in the language at large.

@Sierra: Yes but so what? Wrong punctuation is wrong punctuation. Which is very often far more useful than strict 'rules' of grammar based on Latin. But, that said, errors do become accepted custom and practice (see few/less) and this might well happen with 'MP's' and the like. Seems innocuous to me. Unlike 'grocer's' for 'grocers', which is ratehr more confusing.

@Sierra 2: Why not write that article (or blog) that is so clearly dying to get out of your brain?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Ah, now I see… One mistake - if Colin and Mr Kamm do not like it - is a crime against the language.

But if enough ignorant people make that mistake often enough, they begin to like it, as a sign of language self-invention and renewal…

The mob decides; and the intellectuals follow the mob like dogs drooling to be loved by the plebs….


Colin Davies said...

Finally . . . Reality hit you in the face with a wet kipper. Welcome to the real world. Where numbers determine everything.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Touché… Until now, I never realized that the educated yearn to be led by the unwashed and the analphabetics so as to appear civilized…


Colin Davies said...

Such is the life you hide from, Alfie. Such is life . .

Colin Davies said...

We each rise above it, albeit in different ways.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

And some of us sink into the mud of self-delusion….


Eamon said...

My apartment has a fit kitchen. When I moved in I found two of the cupboard doors were fit upside down. In my opinion the person who had fit the doors was not fit to do the job. And here is some more news. A character arrived at my door this afternoon telling me that Fenosa were moving their billing office from Barcelona to La Coruña and by just signing a sheet of paper I could pay less on my bill. This person was a bit more cunning than the other who came some time back because he hid his paper work in a folder and only showed me a rather scruffy bill from Fenosa. I didn't bother to ask who he was really representing and just closed the door.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

You mean, dear Eamon, that you threw a fitted?


Eamon said...

No, I throwed a fitted.

Colin Davies said...

How fitting, Eamon.

Colin Davies said...

So, Eamon, it was the second time that they'd tried to fit you up.

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