Thursday, August 03, 2006

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Spanglish anguish

SPANGLISH is NOT pronouncing English words as if they were Spanish ones (though, sometimes the opposite occurs: "¿Donde es mi carro, güey?"). Today, I had to call a county sheriff's office about a personal matter. This was where I used to live, in an area where Spanish and Spanglish speakers combined outnumber English speakers, and got a recording telling me "esta el SHARIF de contado de -----". The local media, and the department themselves, use "aguacil" for what sounded like the name of an Egyptian film star of the 50 and 60s. That might be a weird local variant on proper Spanglish, but I have it on good authority (the waitress at my local coffee shop in deepest darkest west Texas) it certainly is not standard. I've run into English-speakers in Mexico asking for "el Ah-Tay-emAy" (which, according to jerga maven Armando Jimenez, means something closer to "everything's cool" than a machine that finances your vacation), looking for "Gee-ZUS TAY-ran" (and, suprisingly, the cabbie took the speaker to her hotel on calle Jesús Teran, though I have to admit, little old English ladies who wield foreign languages with the fine contempt their imperial ancestors showed half the planet manage to thrive on butchered foreign tongues) and "Kaley Don-SELLS" (you know, where they have the used bookshops near the Cathedral). And, I had a very uncomfortable experience trying to help an English-speaking visitor in Mexico make some purchases, only to have him start screaming "DOSE! DOSE! RAID! RAID!" at an uncomprehending -- and impassive -- clerk. While no scholar of Spanglish, I was able to figure out that the foreigner thought he'd given the clerk a two-hundred peso note -- the red ones, right? An update: I posted a draft of this on "Thorn Tree Mexico Message Board". "CaliTravellingMan" wrote, regarding "el Sharif":
Alguacil is used officially for 'sheriff' here in So Cal, and people do use and understand the term, although the term 'el cherif' or 'los cherífes' (now THAT is Spanglish) is as common, if not more so, at the street level. It has an interesting etymology, and though its use in other Spanish-speaking countries faded, in the US, the term was made to fit the new convention of 'sheriff'.
"edlyn" corrected me on "ATM" -- which I had confused with the "proper" Mexican jerga, "desmadre". Thanks to all beady-eyed fact checkers!


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