Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ayúdenme realizar mis sueños - de hecho, es bien fácil

¡Hola amigos mexicanos! No se preocupen - no tengo planes de salirme de México muy pronto, pero de todas formas, mi meta este año es conocer lo más que puedo de DF y de todo México. Ya tengo una lista de recommendaciones de varios amigos pero faltan muchas cosas - la lista incluye todo, de lugares que debería conocer hasta comidas que tengo que probar hasta cosas que debería hacer...La puse al lado de blog, a la derecha. Les pido que me ayuden hacer una lista tan larga y increible que me va a costar toda la vida hacer y probar todo Y que me digan a donde me van a acompañar. ¡Gracias por adelantado!

And my dear gringo friends, since my Mexican friends will be helping me make the best Mexican hit list of all time - books, movies, music, places, food, etc. - I don´t want all of you to feel left out, so if you are so inclined, you can certainly send me your tip-top recommendations for Americana-ness. Amigos mexicanos - dime si tienen planes ir a los Estados Unidos, actualmente tengo amigos en San Francisco, Berkeley, San Luis Obispo, Mendocino, Chicago, Nueva York, Portland, Seattle...y más allá, todos viajeros, y todos les pueden ayudar si van a los EEUU, como un intercambio.

Thanks for the receipt, but I won´t be returning my use of the sanitary facilities

Most of the ¨public¨toilets in Mexico are pay-toilets for 3 pesos. Your 3 pesos does not buy you a clean, comfortable seat, it does not guarantee the absence of unpleasant smells, it does not guarantee a functioning lock nor necessarily a door - it buys you 4-8 squares of toilet paper. At the majority of these facilities, you also get a receipt.
Which I think must have some legal function or something, like tracking use, but I still think it´s downright funny. The receipt above from my trip to La Marquesa, a park just outside of DF, was one of my favorites since it features a lovely picture of trees and a mountainside. I´ll have to tuck it in my scrapbook.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

¡¡¡Grande, Grandísimo, GRANDOTE!!!!

One of my favorite things about Spanish is how you can manipulate the words. Add an -ito and you´ve miraculously shrunk the item in question. Dog = perro, puppy = perrito. A little bit = un poco, A little teeny bit = un poquito. Or you can pump it up using a little -ísimo. I´m full = Estoy llena, I'm stuffed = Estoy llenísima.
Both of these endings were covered decently well in my Spanish classes; however, I feel that two of the best ¨manipulators¨ were given short shrift: -ote/a, -on/ona and -azo. Why make things small and cute when you can make them mega? For example (and please excuse my basically lousy translations. I´m inclined to just put "effing awesome" or "big-ass" in front of everything but that sounds retarded):

gol= goal, golazo = effing amazing goal
favor = favor, favorcito = a tiny favor, favorsote = a huge favor
negocio = deal, negociazo = a hell of a deal/business
panza = gut/belly, pancita = little belly, panzón = beer belly
guapo = cute/good-looking, guapito = pretty cute, guapetón = hot/studly
mujer = woman, mujerona = broad
pachanga = party, pachangota = rocking huge party

Is that not way more fun than shrinking things down? ¡Es divertidisísimooooooo!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Say "Parangacutirimicuaro" 3 times fast!!!....and more tongue twister mania

Everybody loves a tongue twister, am I right? There are lots of place names that are ridiculously hard to pronounce here in Mexico.
As far as I can tell, the entire Nahuatl language (language of the Aztecs, still spoken by about 1.5 million people) is a tongue twister. Popocatépetl? Iztaccíhuatl? Atzcapotzalco? And everyone´s favorite: Parangacutirimicuaro, which is actually a Purépecha municipio in Michoacan apparently, so we won't blame the Aztec conquistadores for that one.
Here´s some more "trabalenguas," courtesy of my friend, Ana and

Tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal.

"R" con "R" cigarro
"R" con "R" barril
Rápido corren los carros que lleva el ferrocarril.
*No cheating! You have to roll the double "R"!

Otorrinolaringólogo trabaja en la otorrinolaringología.

La pícara pájara pica la típica jícara; a la típica jícara, pica la pícara pájara.

Los hombres con hambre hombre, abren sus hombros hombrunos sin dejar de ser hombres con hambre hombre hombruno. Si tú eres un hombre con hambre hombre hombruno, pues dí que eres un hombre com hambre y no cualquier hombre hombruno sino un hombre con hombros muy hombre, hombre.

Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas, cuando cuentes cuentos.

Hay chicas chachareras que chacotean con chicos chazos. Y un chico mete al chillón de la chepa un chichón por chirrichote, y el chiste, y lo chocante, es que la chepa se le ha chafado con la hinchazón del chirlo.

Now, just to be fair, I´m going to have to challenge my Mexican friends to bust out these classic English tongue twisters, not that I can even stutter them out myself:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

How much wood could Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck, if Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood? If Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood, how much wood could and would Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck? Chuck Woods' woodchuck would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as any woodchuck would, if a woodchuck could and would chuck wood.

Betty bought some butter,but the butter Betty bought was bitter,so Betty bought some better butter,and the better butter Betty boughtwas better than the bitter butter Betty bought before!

True Confessions: I like the subjunctive

You´re learning Spanish. You make it through the present, past and future tenses; you can even say stuff like "I have walked" or "I am walking." You´ve overcome the natural Anglo inability to accept that nouns have a gender in Spanish, you may even understand the difference between the three "Excuse me"´s, "Con permiso," "Disculpa," and "Pérdoname."
Then one day you walk into class, feeling on top of the world, and your Spanish teacher with an evil gleam in the eye and a wigged-out smile says, "Okay class, today we´ll be learning about the subjunctive." To which everyone replies, "The what?" Which is understandable because: a) Teaching grammar was out of educational fashion when we went through school, b) In English, we practically never use the subjunctive and pretty much only unconsciously.
As my Spanish teacher explained it, "The subjunctive is a state of mind." You can put that in your pipe and smoke it, but the subjunctive is still going to kick your ass. I´m going to sum up about an entire painful month of classes on The Subjunctive as best I can.
The short story: We use the subjunctive in Spanish to talk about things that we aren´t entirely sure are going to happen or things that are contrary to fact. For instance, if I say: "I want you to clean the plates," I would say, "Quiero que laves los platos." Not lavas, but "laves" because, well, I want you to do it, but that doesn´t necessarily mean you will now does it?
Here's an example of where we use the subjunctive in English: "If I were you, I´d give that boy a beat-down." Did you notice how we don´t say, "If I was you, I´d give that boy a beat-down"? Well, actually a lot of people do, but it sounds kind of country-bumpkin. That´s the subjunctive my friend. Another example: "Were I to go to South Dakota, I would definitely go to Mount Rushmore." And that´s pretty much as far as we Angloparlantes go into the twisted reality of the subjunctive; However Hispanohablantes basically live there.
It´s a whole other reality, littered with uncertainty and hopes and dreams that may not come true.

"Espero que mi novio deje de ponerme las cuernas."
I hope my boyfriend stops cheating on me.
"Algún día, espero que mis hijos tengan una vida mejor que la mía."
I hope my children have a better life than I did.
"Quiero que mi abuela gane la lotería."
I want my grandma to win the lottery.
"Papá, quiero que me des un caballo."
Daddy, I want you to give me a pony.

Initially, I hated the subjunctive like any good American. It seemed so unnecessary. Why so much uncertainty? Why so many irregular verbs? Why does my Spanish teacher seem to be enjoying this so much?
We speak pretty forcefully in English. If you say, "If we win the game..." there´s probably a 50% chance someone´s going to say, "Ah, ah, ah - When we win the game... You´ve got to think positively." That´s all well and good, but life´s not necessarily going to go my way just because I´ve changed my diction.
After about a year living in Spanish, I´ve come to embrace the subjunctive state of being and the light uncertainty that crinkles the edges in a país tropical. It´s not a lack of volition - it´s acknowledging what´s out of my control. Maybe in his next reincarnation, the Dalai Lama will be a Spanish-speaker.

Tooth fairy? How about the Tooth Rat?

My nephew is 6 years old and as you might imagine, that means he usually has a tooth on the verge of falling out. In the traditional way, when one of his tiny teeth finally falls out, he puts it under his pillow and goes to bed just twitching with excitement. However, he´s not counting on a fairy to flit into the room and replace his tooth with 20 pesos, but the Mexican version of the tooth fairy - Ratoncito Perez, or simply "El Ratoncito." With a little in-depth research (wikipedia), I find that only us English-speakers are expecting the Tooth Fairy - in pretty much all the Spanish-speaking world and Italy and France, the little tooth thief is a rat. Initially, it kind of gave me the heeby jeebies to imagine a little rat skulking around in my nephew´s bed, but I guess it actually makes more sense than a fairy.
One question my nephew raised that I can´t answer however is: "What does el Ratoncito want all those teeth for?" I guess that´s why we don´t question tradition.