Some false friends are just downright unfortunate. There is a large and prestigious (well it was prestigious) residential complex near here whose creators had the marvellous idea of naming its streets after fish. It came to mind recently as I had to go and visit someone in calle Lubina (Sea Bass Street). I mean, whoever convinced them that was a good idea in either language?
Bearing in mind that a large proportion of the residents are English speaking, I really think that ‘Monkfish street’ takes the prize. Do you know what that is in Spanish? ‘Calle Rape’. I wonder how much their advisors were paid to come up with that idea.
THE LAND OF THE BLIND
“En el país de los ciegos, el tuerto es el rey.” I find this saying very appealing as it describes the truth rather too often about our own incompetence and that of people around us. The saying contains a super word “tuerto” which means “one-eyed”. Don’t you think it’s great that the Spanish have a special word to describe someone who is one-eyed? Does this reflect a violent history I wonder?
It’s rather like the word “manco” – one-handed or one-armed. Cervantes was nick-named “el manco” because he lost a hand in the Battle of Lepante, a fact which rather reinforces my question about Spanish history.
Sorry – back to the point. The saying we are looking at is: “En el país de los ciegos, el tuerto es el rey” “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed person is king”. I find this is applicable in many situations, for example when trying to work out what’s wrong with your computer. Nobody has a clue, but the one person who knows a little bit more than the rest, is hailed as an expert. That’s what the saying actually means!
SPANISH ROAD SIGNS - DIVERSION
Well you can’t say that Spain road workers aren’t partial to diversions. You arrive anywhere you haven’t been for a while, and all of a sudden you can’t go the way you remember. There’s a big sign pointing you the other way, but it doesn’t say “diversión” does it? It says “desvío”.
So, I hear you say, what does “diversión” mean? Well, it means entertainment! I’m sure you’ll agree that there isn’t an immediate association between this and negotiating a load of backstreets in your car, but there is in fact an interesting link there.
In Spanish “diversión” means to get away from the norm, to divert from the routine and amuse yourself with other things. Something that is fun is “divertido” – it distracts you from your daily routine for a while. So there is a connection between this and “diverting” you from that well known path for a while.
I’ll leave you to think about that, perhaps next time you are following one of those wonderful diversions or “desvíos” that not only take you off the beaten track, but forget to tell you how to get back on it again at the other end.
MY FAVOURITE SPANISH WORD
18th June is the day of the Spanish language, and for the last couple of years this has been marked by speakers and students of Spanish choosing their favourite word. Some people like words with positive meanings, like “solidaridad” and “amor” whilst others go for the sound of the word itself, like “meliflua” and “murciélago”.
My favourite Spanish word is “azul”. It has a long, breathy sound like the wind, and I like the way the Spanish clearly say the “l” at the end of the word. To experience this for yourself just ask a Spanish person to name the colour (that should be easy to do, just point to a blue garment and say “Cómo se llama este color?”) and maybe you will share my aesthetic appreciation. On reflection, it might be better to ask someone who’s selling you some material or something, rather than some old chap sitting at a bar.
This article is made up of items that have been appearing over recent months in my blog http://janecronin.wordpress.com which you can also get to via the homepage of my website. They come under various categories such as“false friends” “favourite sayings” “Spanish society” and so on. I hope you enjoy them.