Tuesday, August 18, 2009

English Is the Coolest

About ten years ago, I spent almost a month in El Pinal, Venezuela. My wife and I were involved in a wild goose chase initiated by her idiot nephew, a lawyer who didn't know the law. When we got back, his mother told us we owed him thousands of dollars. My wife told her we'd pay "when the frog has hair." It sounds better in Spanish.

There isn't a whole lot to do in El Pinal. They eat a lot of arepas, with different color sauces, but after a few weeks, they lose their charm (I lost ten pounds). I went looking for a t-shirt, with something interesting in Spanish, but most of what I saw were Hard Rock Cafe, I Heart New York, and variations on themes I could have found in a Jackson Heights variety store for 99 cents or thereabouts.

But even in El Pinal, everyone wants to be associated with English. It's cool to wear that t-shirt with English all over it, even if you don't actually speak a single word of it. There's no market at all for shirts with words you actually use or understand.

There's a popular hairdresser near our home who speaks only Spanish. When he got himself organized enough to open his own shop, he called it, "The Last Style," instead of "The Latest Style." That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but in Spanish it's "el ultimo estilo," and he made the mistake of procuring a literal translation, either from a dictionary or from someone who didn't know any better. Still, he tried, and only English was cool enough to use for such an important venture. In a way, we native English speakers should be flattered by things like this.

I was horrified, however, by a product my wife purchased called "Now Your Stylin." Now I could understand dropping the "g," as a lot of people speak that way. However, using "your" in place of "you're" is unforgivable, and should earn the perpetrator a stiff prison sentence. This is particularly true if the criminal was born and raised in the good ol' USA.

You can only lower standards so much, and then no more. More importantly, how long can we maintain our cool reputation once people find out we don't actually know the language?
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