2013/05/29

What do you call an Eskimo with bananas in his ears?

The customary riposte is near the end of this post, but Enrique Jardiel Poncela gives a roundabout and, for those of us who believe that English in Spain is often merely decorative, relevant answer in his great erotic-absurdist comedy, Amor se escribe sin hache (1929). Paco Arencibia has just progressed from being the lover of the widow, heiress, and incomparable literary heroine, Lady Sylvia Brums, to being the most loveable of her cuckolds:
En la puerta, color de palo de rosa, surgió Arencibia: en la mano, el sombrero, los guantes y el bastón.

Y Elisa, la manicura; Fernández, el pedicuro; Asunción, la masajista; monsieur Robert, el peluquero; Guzmán, el electromecánico, y Juanita, la doncella, se retiraron a un lado respetuosamente abandonando la estatua yacente de lady Sylvia. Esta, con gran gentileza, le alargó a su marido una de las manos, que Arencibia besó de un modo personalísimo.

- ¿Descansaste bien?
- Divinamente, Sylvi. ("Diminutivo de Sylvia".)
- ¿Sales?
- A dar una vuelta.
- Cada vez tienes un aire más distinguido, querido mío.
- Y tú estás cada vez más hermosa.

Sylvia sonrió con agrado y murmuró amablemente:

- This is very readig and how?

A lo que Arencibia repuso riendo:

- Litle parrows cleveland…[Author's note: Esto no es inglés, pero ¿verdad que lo parece?]

Luego volvió a besar la mano de su mujer y salió del gabinete, dándole un papirotazo cariñoso al "botones", que permanecía serio y rígido al lado de la puerta.

Y Elisa, Fernández, Asunción, monsieur Robert, Guzmán y Juanita, volvieron a apoderarse de lady Sylvia y continuaron el interrumpido manoseo de su cuerpo, tan bello y tan adúltero...

(¡Qué final!)
There's an explanation of why amor is written without an H here, and Andrés Trapiello in Las armas y las letras provides a neat summary of aspects of Jardiel's career untouched by Wikipedians:
[P]asó los trece primeros meses de la guerra amedrentado, sorteando interrogatorios y sospechas, en Madrid, Valencia y Barcelona, donde los anarquistas de la CNT se entusiasmaron con él y le encargaron que formase una compañía de teatro. Jardiel les pidió dinero, casa, pasaporte, y cuando se lo proporcionaron, incluido el permiso de Miaja para salir de Barcelona, se largó con todo, menos con la casa, que no cabía en el barco. En Marsella, consiguió un contrato ficticio en la compañía de Lola Membrives, que actuaba en Buenos Aires.

Allí Jardiel hizo durante unos meses doble juego, hasta que unos republicanos disfrazados de capitalistas, con obispo incluido, le tendieron una celada, y Jardiel, confiado en el ambiente, empezó a ensalzar a Franco, cayó en la trampa y fue desenmascarado y varapaleado. Poco antes de acabar la guerra llegó a España, donde volvió a cosechar éxitos tan resonantes como polémicos, tanto en el teatro como en el cine.
I was reading Amor se escribe again last night on a flight from Stansted to Barcelona with, on my right and blocking out the clouds, a capsicum-haired harpy, and, in the aisle and fear of his life, an extraordinarily cretinous Crystal Palace supporter.

The latter's mother had advised that his poor relationship with aeroplanes could be mended with Valium, which he had decided was best washed down with vodka.

Unfortunately that wasn't working, and so, in order to get the vodka off him and into ourselves, I and the harpy suggested to him that the reason Ryanair is so cheap is that the aircraft are not equipped with standard safety devices, e.g. smoke alarms in the toilets.

A brief tumult ensued at the back, then Mr Dinosaur returned and, after a moment when he might have been saved, stopped breathing, so that the rest of flight level 300 was most enjoyable, and what we couldn't drink was donated to the Sikh behind us.

However, shortly before landing the reluctant conclusion was reached that gentle resuscitation needed to be undertaken to avoid any violent outbursts.

What to say to him? "It doesn't matter - he can't hear you anyway."

Which was the answer some of you may still have been looking for.

2013/05/15

Buy your knives from Quttin, with thoughts on final /g/s and a poem by Ambrose Bierce

The latest pseudo-anglicism to cheer my bedraggled brain comes from a 20-year-old Albacete knife manufacturer. (See also camping, parking, lifting, shampooing, footing, and Wikipedia.) I like the dropped /g/, which interestingly goes against a trend in Andaluz and increasingly in other versions of Spanish to add a terminal /g/ to words previously ending in /n/. Here for example is Juan Antonio Canta singing of the loss of his girlfriend "eng la segunda guerra mundial" and, for any remaining Freudians out there, about German penis size and the frustration of being Spanish:

 

The work of JAC is a delight for anyone interested in the phantasy and phonology of very, very late Andalusian avant-gardism, but the /g/ final is afaik undocumented by professional linguists and does not appear in the standard models of southern speech which I used for my Spanish-Andalusian transformer (which silly people persist in calling a translator). If you have more information please get in touch!

[
Here's another example, with lots more Andalusian fun, from the siege of Setenil in 1484:
]

Some of you (Boris Johnson, for example) have expressed concern about this blog's sloth and apparent lack of direction. In reply here is Ambrose Bierce's tribute to the tortoise:

My friend, you are not graceful — not at all;
Your gait's between a stagger and a sprawl.

Nor are you beautiful: your head's a snake's
To look at, and I do not doubt it aches.

As to your feet, they'd make an angel weep.
‘Tis true you take them in whene'er you sleep.

No, you're not pretty, but you have, I own,
A certain firmness — mostly you're [sic] backbone.

Firmness and strength (you have a giant's thews)
Are virtues that the great know how to use —

I wish that they did not; yet, on the whole,
You lack — excuse my mentioning it — Soul.

So, to be candid, unreserved and true,
I'd rather you were I than I were you.

Perhaps, however, in a time to be,
When Man's extinct, a better world may see

Your progeny in power and control,
Due to the genesis and growth of Soul.

So I salute you as a reptile grand
Predestined to regenerate the land.

Father of Possibilities, O deign
To accept the homage of a dying reign!

In the far region of the unforeknown
I dream a tortoise upon every throne.

I see an Emperor his head withdraw
Into his carapace for fear of Law;

A King who carries something else than fat,
Howe'er acceptably he carries that;

A President not strenuously bent
On punishment of audible dissent —

Who never shot (it were a vain attack)
An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back;

Subject and citizens that feel no need
To make the March of Mind a wild stampede;

All progress slow, contemplative, sedate,
And “Take your time” the word, in Church and State.

O Tortoise, ‘tis a happy, happy dream,
My glorious testudinous regime!

I wish in Eden you'd brought this about
By slouching in and chasing Adam out.
Bierce is in many ways one of the best writers I have read in any language. The Devil's Dictionary, from which this is excerpted, is deservedly celebrated, but the drumhead prose of The Parenticide Club, which is relatively unknown, should give great pleasure to anyone who has enjoyed later brutal absurdists like Flann O'Brien, and I think that Bierce's creation of a landscape of Civil War ghosts - derived from his experiences as a boy-soldier - is in military-literary terms an incomparable achievement. Ah, digression.

2013/05/03

Balearic teaching union opposes English-language instruction

It has always struck me as pretty damn schizo that proponents of forced Catalan immersion often suggest that, while Spanish is taboo, they would be open to the use of another vigorously expanding global language, English. So it's good to see that in defence of the high-quality public education for which the Balearics are known the Sindicat de Treballadores i Treballadors-Intersindical is encouraging schools to refuse to introduce English-language instruction, citing members' job prospects as well as the status of the Chosen Language. Fucked translation is a natural choice where the strategic goal is to maximise pie share rather than size.