7 September 2021

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza

The Spanish judicial system yet again: Spanish democracy should not allow a perpetual deadlock that damages its reputation and brings it into disrepute. 

The ex lover of the ex king, Juan Carlos, obviously had a ringside view of his life and his business dealings. So, is she to be believed when she claims that his son, the current king Felipe VI, benefitted all his life from his father’s corruption?  I’d guess so, whether he was aware of things or not.

A book for Hispanophiles? ‘Feria‘: Rural memoirs stir longing for Spain’s past.

The Voz de Galicia: A raw material that Galicia is rich in is suffering the effects of a bubble caused by the Asian giant: China’s voracity has turned wood into a luxury item and the shortage is beginning to be felt in sawmills, an escalation that was accelerated by the pandemic and also by the demand from the USA. The decarbonisation of recent times is reactivating the use of a raw material with a multitude of uses, but in reality the timber market was already global before the term globalisation was coined; in fact the Romans were already cutting down the forests of Galicia. Back in the 21st century, business is booming and companies from other parts of Spain and Portugal are competing with Galician pine. Can we hope that this will reduce the number of bloody eucalyptus trees in our region? Or will they actually increase in response to demand?

Talking of trees, the VdG also reports that this hasn’t been a summer of major forest fires in Galicia. This is, of course, excellent news but I wonder, again, whether unseasonal rains played a part in this.

But that was yesterday. Today the paper reports that there’s been a huge fire up in the beautiful Ribeira Sacra area, with 900 hectares destroyed. I guess Fate was tempted.

The UK 

Boris Johnson is said to be desperate to be popular and so responds quickly to messages from focus groups, regardless of manifesto commitments or, indeed, of anything else. I wonder, then, if he’s ever asked what people think about his ludicrous hairstyle.

English

A A Gill, ‘a giant among journalists’, died at the early age of 62. He was dyslexic and, astonishingly, dictated all his ‘writings’ over the phone to a distant typist. As I’ve said, he wasn’t – to say the least – an admirer of English culture but he was, in contrast, supremely fond of the English language. Quite possibly because he was a brilliant user of it. Below is an an eloquent paean of praise to it which he gave, ex cuffo, to a group of dyslexic children. I guess native English speakers will find it easy to agree with his assessment, while speakers of other languages might not, feeling their own language to be superior, in one way or another. Or even in all ways. Except Germans. Maybe . . .

Spanish

A new word to me: Embrudar: ‘To bridle’. Used in the context of the very high electricity prices. So, perhaps best translated as ‘To rein in’. Also used in the same article: Abultado. ‘Bloated’.

Finally  . .

Alongside rhtotacism, there’s the speech defect associated with the letter L, lambdacism. I might have come across this when trying to buy the perfume Chloe in both Japan and Hong Kong, where it was pronounced as Co-ee. Finally on this . . . Sometimes people mistake these speech impediments for a lisp, which they aren’t.

Talking of sounds  . . . The word ‘Trafalgar’ is pronounced in English with the stress on the 2nd syllable, whereas in Spanish it’s on the final syllable. I was made acutely aware of the importance of correct pronunciation on the Strand in London one day, when an American chap, when asking me to direct him to Trafalgar Square, put the stress on the 1st syllable. It took me quite a while to realise where he wanted to go, repeating TRAfalgar, TRAfalgar out loud several times, as I tried to figure out where he meant. This is a lead-in to me admitting that the look of confusion on waiters’ and waitresses faces when I ask for a Godello wine might well be down to me saying Godéo instead of GodéYo. Or at least not making the Y(LL) sound strongly enough.

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

AA Gill, a dyslexic talking to a group of dyslexic children about English.

There’s something you need to know. Something they don’t tell you, we have to learn it for ourselves. This language in your mouth, the words that don’t need spelling in your head, this English, is the greatest thing that biology, civilisation and natural selection has got to offer. Nothing else in 100,000 years has come close. It is the finest language ever coined. Not just by a little bit, not just by a couple of commas and a simile, but by volumes, by torrents of words, of meaning, of metaphors, of allegories and parables, of such nimble perspicacity, so exact and specific it can encompass a universe and split an atom. It is bigger than every god ever imagined. It is a thing not just of unparalleled power and accuracy but of peerless beauty and elegance. Heartbreaking poignancy and breath-catching loveliness. It is sinewy, gutsy, ballsy and bowelsy, shitty, pissy, bloody and snotty. It is heroic and mythic, has the strength to crack worlds, and is as delicate and subtle as dew on a web. All other tongues huff and puff in its wake, nothing has its poise, no other language comes close to English in its vista or its vision and it’s yours, all of it, every single syllable and long hallooed vowel, yours for free, yours for life. If you have English in your head you can already think things that people who don’t have it don’t even know they can’t think . . . and no one can take it away from you, no one has more right to it than you do, no one can tell you what to say or how to say it, there are no rules, no lines, no instructions to this English, there is no correct accent or pronunciation, no proper order or style, it doesn’t have judges or a police force or governors, you can’t be punished for getting it wrong because there is no wrong. Dictionaries don’t police language, they chase along behind it. Grammar is whatever suits your design and need, there are no commandments of grammar, only people too frightened of its power with small, clogged and clotted minds. Teachers don’t give you the language and their marks are meaningless, they don’t have the keys to it or the secret of it, it wasn’t made by a committee or a common room or a club, it was built by people like us, millions of them, not in classrooms or halls or palaces or churches, but in streets and fields, in trenches, at sea, in forests and tundras, in jungles and on top of mountains. In shops and stinking laboratories, in barracks and hovels and tents and gibbets and styles, in ditches and over garden walls, in cradles and in dreams. It is the one truly, wholly democratic free and limitless thing we all own, it is yours. It will do whatever you ask it to do, in as many ways as you can imagine saying it. Don’t ever, ever allow anyone to use this language against you, to make you feel excused or silenced or small or to make you doubt that you own every single breath and sign of English, and never speak it like a guest with an apology or deference or hesitation. Dyslexia is only one word. It is our word. There are millions of other words and they are also all our wordsIn shops and stinking laboratories, in barracks and hovels and tents and gibbets and styles, in ditches and over garden walls, in cradles and in dreams. It is the one truly, wholly democratic free and limitless thing we all own, it is yours. It will do whatever you ask it to do, in as many ways as you can imagine saying it. Don’t ever, ever allow anyone to use this language against you, to make you feel excused or silenced or small or to make you doubt that you own every single breath and sign of English, and never speak it like a guest with an apology or deference or hesitation. Dyslexia is only one word. It is our word. There are millions of other words and they are also all our words.

5 comments

  1. I drove through the fire yesterday evening. It stretched from outside Quiroga west, to Lor. It was absolutely heart breaking seeing the flames devouring the green heart of the hills.

    On another subject, English is a wondrous language, cobbled together out of other speeches. Spanish has been influenced by other languages, such as the disappeared Gothic the Germanic invaders brought, and Arabic. But it is still only the end result of a vulgate Latin.

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  2. I believe there are few traces of either Celtic or Gothic languages in modern Spanish but I might be wrong. If it’s true, it’s a shame. Maybe the Catholic Church resisted pagan influences. Far more Arabic influences. Not surprising after 7-800 years of occupation which the Church could do nothing about . . .

    Celtic is more observable in the toponymy, I think, Of Galicia at least.

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  3. I think you are right when you say there is more arabic in Spanish than Germanic or Celtic. But Spanish is still Latin, basically. You will find that the same arabic words in Spanish appear in English as well: Algebra, Algorithm, Chemistry, Admiral, Rice, Almond, Orange, Albatros, Gacelle… and so on. In Spanish you will find arab usually in words related to food items, furniture and maths. There are a few exceptions – commonly used in Spanish: Barrio, Aldea, Alquiler, Almacen but most words are rarely used or have fallen out of use. I reckon about 3% of habitually spoken Spanish is of arabic origin, at most. For a test, you could theoretically, take your last three to five blog/monologues and goggle parse them. I’d be surprised if you reach 2%. Ojala (In Shalah) I am not wrong.

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