Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

Archive for the category “Argentina”

Why “Soccer” and not “Football”? Blame it on the Brits!

So it`s the World Cup and what a joy to be in a place like Argentina during this time.  Just like any other event, be it a concert or local football game, the people are as passionate as you can imagine.  When Argentina plays, the streets are empty and you hear shouting and screaming from all the buildings around.   Restaurants and homes are decorated in flags of light blue and white.  Many offices are equipped with extra monitors and TVs to watch the games while working.  Store are closed in order to not miss a moment, and no one–except two foreigners (myself included)–came to a class that was scheduled before game 2 on a Saturday.  Whether you like football or not, it`s hard to not get sucked into the excitement somehow!

Cerrado

I`m American and grew up watching “the other football.”   You know – the one that does not have to do with feet at all?  Come on America!  Why do we have to be different than the rest of the world?  I have been annoyed by this, just like many of you, but there is a reason for it and it`s not American arrogance.  In fact, it`s the Brit`s fault!

football vs. soccer

 

The word “soccer” is a diminutive of association, as in As-soc-iation Football.   In the early 1800`s, a group of British universities took the medieval game “football”  and started playing their own versions of it, all with different rules.  In order to standardize things across the country, however, these games were categorized under different organizations and given different names.  One version of the game played with only hands became “Rugby Football.”  Another version was called  “Association Football.”   Rugby Football later became “Rugger” for short, and Association Football later became “Assoccer,” quickly changing to “Soccer” alone.

Eventually Rugby and Soccer both spread across to the United States  in the early 1900`s.  What was known as “Gridiron” in Britian was called Football in America and  “Association Football” kept the name “Soccer.”   The Brits also kept using the term  “Soccer” for a large part of the 20th century; in fact between 1960 and 1980, “Soccer” and “Football” were “almost interchangeable” terms in Britain.  The first documented case of the sport being called by the term “Football” was in 1881, 18 years after it was first called “Soccer” (or officially “Association Football.”)

Soccer is not as popular in the United States, although things are changing.  Of non-Brazilian fans visiting this year`s World Cup for example, the greatest number of fans come from the US!  Personal economics makes a difference of course, but that is more than neighboring Argentina fans.  Vamos USA!

So… it will be hard to overcome the many stereotypes against Americans and “Soccer” but remember this, it isn`t our fault!  I was surprised too!

 

 

Sources for this post:

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-americans-call-it-soccer-2014-6#ixzz35ZcK2qcp
http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-2783,00.html

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/06/the-origin-of-the-word-soccer/

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Time is money, or is it? How different cultures view and live time

“Time is money” said the American, but “no it`s gold,” says the Spaniard.  Expressions differ from culture to culture but a greater difference is that in how time is viewed and “practiced” from culture to culture .  Since coming to Argentina, I must say I am quite adapted to how time works but there are always exceptions (meaning anything having to do with the dreaded word: tràmite.)  I met an American traveling around the world in Buenos Aires, his first stop.  He was surprised that I arrived 15 minutes late to meet him.  Although I am much more loose with time than I used to be, I was still worried he would be bothered that I was late, but on the contrary.  To him, me arriving 15 minutes late was “on time” compared to the average of 45 minutes late he had calculated with the Argentines he had met.  “Forty-five minutes, is that all?” you think.  Any North American or Northern European living in this “time chaos” have many stories of their own!Image

Argentina is a place where the lack of systems and infrastructure sometimes (always when related to a tràmite) make things take longer than you want, by American standards that is.  It`s not just that it takes longer, sometimes you wonder if it will happen at all. There have been so many times when I have planned several “appointments” to see friends, but then all plans were thrown out the window when the first appointment started two hours late.  Or going to a store and the salesman is not in a hurry to check you out, as working quicker is no guarantee for more profit nor is that the priority.  Or what about those weekend nights when you return as the sun is rising?  A club or bar does not get busy until 2 am and family parties go all night with even the young kids pulling all-nighters.  And going to a restaurant or cafe is a real blessing as you can sit there for hours without complaint.  This would be unheard of in the US without leaving a nice tip.  This is Argentina. You love and hate how time works.  It depends on where you come from and/or how tied you are to it.

Linear cultures are those who plan ahead, schedule, organize, are results oriented and do one thing at a time generally. These are profit-oriented societies where time is precious and viewed as even scarce. Time moves fast and if you want to benefit, you have to move fast with it.  Americans, Swiss and Germans are in this category.  According to the article “How Different Cultures Understand Time” from the Business Insider, Americans are people of action, and they cannot bear to be idle.  They view the past as gone and the present moment as an opportunity.  Argentina is considered a Multi-active culture–lively, people who do many things at once, planning their priorities not according to any time schedule but instead on the potential thrill or importance of each appointment. These cultures are emotional and people/relationship oriented.  They make decisions based on feelings where linear cultures stick to the facts.  Other cultures in the multi-active category include Italians and Arabs.  The third category are Reactive cultures,  those cultures that prioritize courtesy and respect, always listening (instead of talking like the multi-active) and carefully reacting to others` proposals.  In this group, face to face contact is important, statements are promises, and the people are very harmony oriented.  The Chinese, Japanese and Finns belong to this group.

There is also a “cyclical view” of time practiced in Eastern cultures where time is viewed neither as linear nor event/relationship oriented.  With cyclical time, the sun rises and sets each day; the seasons follow one another year after year, and people grow old and die, but their children ensure that the process continues. Time is not scarce when time is cyclical and there always seems to be an unlimited supply of it.  Asians do not see time as racing away as it would with a linear lens, but instead they view time as coming around again in a circle, where the same opportunities, risks and dangers will re- present themselves later, when you are wiser. Westerners instead are accustomed to making quick decisions and if a lot of time has passed without making a decision or producing something, it is often viewed as “wasted” time.

Although linear and cyclical cultures are very different, they both still see the past as something we have put behind us and the future as something that lies before us. In Madagascar, however, the opposite is true.  The Malagasy people view the future from the back of their heads, or passing from behind.  Instead it is the past that stretches out in front of them, because they can see it.  They can look at the past, enjoy it, learn from it, and even “play” with it, such as by consulting their ancestors or even digging up their bones!

If you are planning to live or work abroad, you can never really be prepared for how time is viewed differently until you live it and learn to love it (although complaining is still allowed once in a while!)  Just a few differences between English and Spanish that I have encountered when talking about time are the following:

  • English calls it “wasting time,” where the equivalent in Spanish is “to lose time.”  In Argentina for example, if you do not produce something or make the most of your time, at least there is a hope that you enjoyed yourself and/or relaxed a bit; this is the only thing that would have been “lost” for example.
  • To make time in English is to reserve time to do something else, surely something productive.  Time is structured and organized so you “set aside” two hours a week to study English for example (hint hint for those students out there!)  Making time in Spanish (haciendo tiempo), however, is related to “killing time”–like waiting for your flight at the airport.
  • El tiempo (the time) also means “the weather,” where these things would never be confused in English.  Time is time and weather is weather, period!
  • And “ahora” means “now” right?  Not always!  It could mean “later” and remember that there is always time to do it “tomorrow… mañana, mañana.”

The list goes on as do your personal stories.  Feel free to share them on a comment. I`d love to hear more about your personal experiences related to time and culture!

The main sources for this post include the following articles:

 

Translation marketing blunders oh my! Part 1

I have a favorite class with students where we talk about cross cultural communication and share stories about language and/or cultural mishaps.  Something will inevitably happen when you are learning another language.  Working as a waitress once I remember telling a Spanish speaking table that I was pregnant instead of embarrassed.  It`s a common error to make and in the end just reason to laugh.  Don`t let the possibility of saying something wrong stop you from trying!

The stakes are higher in business, however, and translation and cultural awareness must be considered.  In international marketing, one of the most well-known translation blunders comes from car maker Chevy and their car the “Nova.”  In Spanish it literally translates to “It doesn`t go.”  It was obviously not the message Chevy wanted to portray for its car that is suppose to go, and go fast for that matter!  (See below for more clarification on this case.)

Image

Mistakes with cultural awareness without a doubt have happened and continue to happen, especially as the world becomes more global everyday.  Examples of that for another post!  Today`s post is a compilation of translation mistakes (in writing, not speaking) that led to unfavorable results in international markets.

1. The Chevy Nova isn`t the only English to Spanish (or vice versa) mistake that has occurred with cars.  In fact there have been many.  Here are three examples of model names that were unfit for the Spanish and Portuguese markets.

  • The Mazda Laputa literally translates in Spanish to the Mazda “whore” (la puta).
  • The Nissan Moco literally translates to the Nissan “bugger” (el moco).
  • The Mitsubishi Pajero is the Mitsubishi “wanker.”   The car was renamed as “Montero.”

2. Honda introduced their car the “Fitta” in Nordic countries in 2001, only to later to learn that it referred to a woman’s genitals in Swedish and Norwegian. In the end, they renamed it the “Honda Jazz.”

3. Gerber is America’s best-known baby food maker, but “gerber” can be translated as “to vomit” of all things in French. Evidently the name was not marketed in France.

4. In Germany, Clairol launched a curling iron called the “Mist Stick” and mist in German is slang for manure: the “manure stick.” Uh oh…

5. Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent £6 million on a campaign to launch its new ‘Bundh’ sauces only later to receive calls from numerous Punjabi speakers indicating that “bundh” sounded just like the Punjabi word for “arse”. Oops!

6. The Japanese company Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic) was promoting a new PC for internet users. They had created the new web browser and received license to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as the interactive internet guide.  The day before launch, they realized the mistake and saved themselves a lot of embarrassment. The ads for the new product featured the following slogan: “Touch Woody – The Internet Pecker.”  “Woody” and “pecker” are both references to male genitals in English.

7. In the 1970`s, Wang Computers was an American computer company with the motto: “Wang Cares.”  Sounding a lot like “wankers,” British branches refused to use the motto.

8. “Traficante” is an Italian mineral water, but in Spanish translates to “drug dealer” or “trafficker.”  In 2006, it was purchased by Coca-Cola.

9. When Pope John Paul II visited Miami in 1987, a local T-shirt maker produced commemorative T-shirts for the Hispanic market “Vi la papa” without realizing that a simple article change in Spanish changed the meaning. The shirts literally read: “I saw the Potato” (“la Papa”), instead of “I saw the Pope” (“el Papa”).

10. The toothpaste and toothbrush company “Colgate” literally means “hang yourself” in the voseo form of Argentinian Spanish.

More on Chevy`s Nova: Despite being perhaps the most common example given in international marketing, the story of the Nova is actually a myth.  The car was sold with this name in Venezuela and Mexico, having quite successful sales in Venezuela in fact.

For a similar post but related to cultural blunders, go here!

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Yankee really?

A Yankee is someone from New England.  It comes from the American Civil War times right?  And it´s the baseball team that always wins? Well, yes and no, because Yankee is so much more than that.  These would be a few common responses in the modern United States, but evidently Yankee can mean different things depending on where you are.  According to “Writing Gooder” blog, a Yankee is the following:

  • To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
  • To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
  • To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
  • To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
  • To a New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter
  • And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.

A Yankee in Argentina (Yanqui) is what other countries call “gringos.” As the list above states, it is used to describe someone from the United States–anyone, and not just someone from the north.  Pronounced something like “Shunky” (and not to be confused with junkie), it is not used intentionally as a derogatory term, although it can happen and there are other alternatives that could be used in Spanish, such as “estadounidense” o “americano/a,” which will be mentioned in another blog post another time.  Some Argentine friends and English teachers recently told me that they thought the word was used incorrectly in Buenos Aires, as a more targeted definition would be for Americans from the northern states.  Knowing this, another Italian student recently asked me what a colleague from the US meant when she said she was a Yankee.  I told him the same, but his colleague was making a reference more to her political views than where she was from.  She was instead stating that she was not (a conservative Texan).  The word is highly confusing, even for Americans! So where did it come from?

yankee doodle flag

There are many theories about the origin of the word.  Evidently in New England, the prevalent theory is that it originated among a group of Native Americans who pronounced the word “English” as “yengis” or “yengeese,” which later was Anglicized to “Yankees.”  Linguists, however, have linked the word to Dutch origins, rather than being from Native American and English contact.  During the colonization of North America, the areas which are now New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were inhabited by the Dutch, which is why New York was originally called New Amsterdam.  The states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were inhabited by the English.  Naturally the two groups interacted often and eventually began to mix.  There are three  major arguments as to where the word Yankee came from based on this history.

1. Jan and Kees are common first names in the Dutch language, in use today and during colonization as well. The two names are sometimes combined into Jan Kees – this could have then developed into Yankee to describe English settlers moving into previously Dutch colonized areas.

2. The Dutch nickname Janneke (meaning “little John” or Johnny), would be Anglicized to Yankee, meaning converting it to a more English pronunciation and spelling in this case. This explanation believes that Yankee was used to describe Dutch-speaking American colonists, and by extension non-Dutch colonists.

3. The derogatory term John Cheese was often used to describe Dutch settlers, who were popular for their cheese production. The Dutch translation for John Cheese would be Jan Kaas; this could have also been Anglicized to Yankees and therefore be where the word originated.

The word Yankee has been very present during times of war.  Even before the American Revolution, British soldiers used the term Yankee to mock American soldiers. It was combined with the word “Doodle”, which was a derogatory term that meant “fool” or “simpleton,” to create the song Yankee Doodle which today ironically is a symbol of American pride.  I suppose that pride came from winning the war…  Later on during the Civil War, the Yankees were the hated opponents of the Confederates.  In World War I, the English began calling American soldiers, both Southerners and Northerners, Yankees, and it was then shortened to Yank and became popular in the United States.  Yankee and Yank were again popular designations for the American soldier in World War II. The term Yanqui is used in some Latin America countries to describe US citizens, often—especially after the Cuban Revolution— with a note of hostility.

Yankee doodle

Yankee Doodle by Archibald Willard

So there you go. How many of you associated the Dutch with this term used worldwide with such rich historical significance?  I certainly didn´t!

Presenting the McFlation, formerly known as the Big Mac

I don´t frequent McDonald´s, but I do go every one in a while.  Back in the US when I had a bad day, I remember occasionally I would call it a “Big Mac Day.”  It was when I had to find some relief in the midst of deadlines or pressure, or just needed a momentary escape when nothing was going right.  Occasionally a Happy Meal (Caja Feliz) would do, when I wanted to spend as little as possible, and then a friend´s kid would later become the proud owner of the toy.

McDonald´s in Argentina… well it´s not too different really, but many of the stores are a bit bigger than I recall in Colorado.  They have quite large coffee shops/separate stores to compete with Starbucks; the items are in Spanish (obvio!), and some say the beef is better as it is Argentina.  I´m not too sure about that one (insert sarcastic intonation here), but there is something very different about McDonald´s here that I just now have come to understand.  As mentioned above, I prefer the Big Mac.  So it was no surprise that I would usually choose the Big Mac when I went there.  I was also surprised to find that it was much less expensive than the other “combos” as they say and was close to the price of a Caja Feliz–truly!  But who would know this as it´s not listed on the menu to even see.  I have always had to ask for it you see.

Argentina is known for its history of high inflation and yet the government says something else, so where´s the proof?  The proof is in many places, including the price of the Big Mac!  The Big Mac Index was invented by the Economist in 1986.  The Economist says: “Our Big Mac index is a fun guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level.  It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that global exchange rates should eventually adjust to make the price of identical baskets of tradable goods the same in each country.”  This Burgernomics measure was never intended to be a measure for currency misalignment (aka high inflation) and was instead a fun and easy way to understand costs in different currencies, but the tool has become a global standard.

Big Mac index

The Argentine price of the Big Mac looks well in line with other currencies when you look at the Big Mac Index; however, it doesn´t even compare to the prices of other items on the menu.  It is an obvious manipulation to mask a bigger problem–the near 25% inflation that the government denies.  I did some secret shopping the other day to see current McDonald´s prices and was not surprised what I found.  The Big Mac itself is 19 pesos, where the Cuarto de Libra (Quarter Pounder) is 33 pesos and the Triple Mac is 35 pesos!   That´s a difference of about $3 USD for just an extra patty of meat.  As far as the combos go, the Big Mac Meal is 29 pesos, where the Triple Mac meal is 49 pesos,  the Cuarto de Libra meal is 47 pesos, and a Caja Feliz is 30 pesos!  A Happy Meal is more expensive than a Big Mac meal, como puede ser? (How can this be?)  A Happy Meal is always one of the least expensive items on the menu… in the United States that is, and not in Argentina where the Big Mac price is manipulated for economic reasons.  Using today´s “official dollar exchange” ($1USD is $5.29AR), prices equate to the following:

  • Big Mac sandwich: $3.59 USD (Actual price $5.90)
  • Cuarto de Libra sandwich: $6.24
  • Triple Mac sandwich: $6.62
  • Big Mac combo: $5.48
  • Triple Mac combo: $9.26
  • Cuarto de Libra combo: $8.88
  • Caja Feliz: $5.67

Argentines are well aware of the government trick, and they have even coined a term for it–“El Menu Moreno”–based on the name of commerce secretary Guillermo Moreno who is “notorious for telling companies to fix certain prices to keep the official inflation rate down.”  In June 2012 Big Mac prices rose 25% after President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner´s attempts to pressure McDonald´s to keep the prices low failed.

Big Mac Argentina

Some sources say that McDonald´s has decided to stop offering the Big Mac in Argentina as the  government-manipulated price does not make it profitable any longer, however, if you ask for it, you can still get it.  I´d like to see what happens if you order the McFlation combo.

Global prices for a Big Mac in January 2013, by country (in USD).

 

The Messi Dollar

So now they are calling it the “Messi Dollar,” as it quickly approaches the magic number 10.  I am referring to the new high of the blue dollar in Argentina.  Since I first blogged about this back in August, the blue dollar (aka black market dollar) has risen from $6.37 AR pesos to $9.3 AR pesos per $1USD.  That is as of today, April 29, 2013, where the official rate is $5.19 AR pesos to $1USD, changing from $4.65 AR back in August.   Today the gap between the official exchange and the blue dollar exchange is above 80%.  It appears that the arbolitos, those who are buying and selling dollars on the streets in high tourist areas, have already reached 10.  Reaching $8 AR pesos to $1USD was a milestone in itself, but that is old news and was $2 USD ago!

The “Messi Dollar” refers to the jersey number of Lionel Messi for those of you who live under a rock.  He is an Argentine football player (attention Americans: soccer player) who plays as a forward for the Argentina national team and for FC Barcelona in the Spanish league.  He is perhaps the greatest football (soccer) player in the world and now has even currency named after him!

When I first read “Messi Dollar” today, the thought crossed my mind that it could even be true.  A new bill, with a living person on it?  Only in Argentina.  The country has a long history of high inflation.  In my short three years, I have been surprised several times by new money.   I always knew and used the $2 AR peso bill for example, and then one day the $2 AR peso coin came along that not even the buses accepted at first.  It took a little while for them to catch up to the new coin.

Image

Then just a few months ago, I received change with coins that I had never seen before.  The cashier even told me “Son de verdad” (They are real) as I looked at them in doubt.  Later that day I attempted to use them, but the cashier at the next shop didn´t recognize them and was reluctant to accept at all.  After showing her manager, they accepted the coins, but not on the basis of them being legitimate, instead because the manager told me he liked them.  I later learned that these were coins used in 2006 and were later lifted from the market.  Few people recognized them in fact, but the few that did told me that they were collector´s items.

Image

Then there was the Evita $100 peso bill, which came into circulation in 2012 as a form of tribute for the 60th anniversary of Evita´s death.  Argentine President Cristina Kirchner later declared that the bill would replace the former bill definitively, and production reached great numbers…as did the cost of production.  On top of that, alerts went out about the large suspected number of false bills circulating.   Last month production of the Evita bill was stopped all together.  According to Clarin, an Argentine newspaper, the Argentine government is currently only printing $5 AR and $10 AR peso bills.  Just last week I finally found an Evita bill, which is far too pretty to spend.

Evita bill

In my third week, a kind taxi driver informed me of the false bills circulating, and he even showed me how to identify them.  This was an occasion in Argentina where luck struck; he shared his knowledge instead of giving me false change.  The concept of false bills isn´t an easy one to understand, nor accept when it happens to you.  I remember more than one story of exchange students crying as a result of their bills not being accepted.  Argentines, however, will tell you they are unfortunately accustomed to all of this.  A Buenos Aires museum I have yet to visit is the Museo de la deuda externa Argentina (The Argentine Museum of External Debt), which includes a history of the country´s peso, through the years of inflation.

As the blog beyondbrics states, “It is no longer a question of whether it will continue to rise – that’s a given…(and) Still, the government is in no mind to devalue – yet. Watch for that Messi dollar soon.”

The new Pope loves God, football, and maybe potatoes

Yesterday was a big day for the Catholic Church and for Catholics around the world, especially those in Latin America as the new Pope was revealed for the world to see.  Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit, and the first to use the name Francis.  The name Francis is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who is known among Catholics for his work with the poor.

Pope Francis himself is 76 and has served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998.  He represents a highly conservative perspective, examples being his clashing with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.  Of the word’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Latin America is home to 480 million.  This new Pope brings together the first world and the developing worlds.  Also being of the Jesuit order, it represents a new chapter for the Catholic Church.

The news certainly represents a new chapter for Latin America and Argentina specifically.  Not long after the news was released I heard bells ringing from nearby churches, horns honking on the streets and of course the social networks were flooded with opinions.  Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country but like many countries, there are many people who are disenchanted with the ways of the church.  For this and other reasons, news from Porteños (the people of Buenos Aires) was mixed.  Many celebrated with other believers and others were embarrassed for the country.  One friend of mine said, “Yo hoy quisiera ser uruguaya!”  (Today I wanted to be Uruguayan.)

Regardless of religious beliefs, one cause for strong criticism is the now-Pope’s alleged role in Argentina’s last military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983 where an estimated 30,000 people were killed and disappeared. The Argentine Church and Bergoglio, due to his position in the local Jesuit Order at the time, have been accused of ignoring the victims despite their relatives first-hand accounts of kidnappings, torture, and deaths.  Here are some comments regarding yesterday’s news, from Argentinians and other Latin Americans, with corresponding picture that are making their rounds in social network land.

  • “Ahora van a ser mas agrandados aún!” (Now they’re going to be even more full of themselves.) (Chilean)
  • Brace yourselves, now Argentines will feel more Godlike than ever!! (Ecuadorian)
  • Según recientes estadísticas ahora de cada 10 argentinos, 11 se sienten superiores a los otros 10. (According to recent stats, now of every 10 Argentines, 11 is going to feel superior to the other 10.) (Colombian)

Pope and Asado

  • Hay un viejo chiste que describe la fama de arrogantes que los argentinos tenemos entre latinoamericanos y españoles: “Dios es argentino”. Hoy ese chiste adquirió un nuevo significado… (There is an old joke that describes the infamous arrogance that Argentinians have with other Latin Americans and Spaniards. “God is Argentinian.”  Today this joke has new meaning.) (Argentinian)

Dios en Argentino

  • Dios es Argentino y ahora el Papa también!!!jaja (God is Argentinian and now the Pope too – haha.) (Argentinian)
  • “El Dios del fútbol es argentino y ahora, también el Papa es argentino”. (The God of football is Argentinian and now also the Pope is Argentinian.) (Maradona)

Maradona approves

  • Que el Papa sea Argentino confirma que Dios es Maradona. (Now that the Pope is Argentinian, it confirms that Maradona is God.)(Argentinian)

maradona number

  • La verdad me da mucha bronca que una persona que fue cómplice de la dictadura ahora sea Papa; de todas formas, no tiene nada de raro, esa institución nunca tuvo nada que ver ni con la religiosidad ni dios sino todo lo contrario. (The truth is it really pisses me off that a person that was an accomplice of the dictator now is Pope; anyway it’s not strange, this institution never had anything to do with religion nor with God, but only the opposite.) (Argentinian)
  • Bergoglio sigue siendo investigado por la participación de la Iglesia en delitos de lesa humanidad. Ni olvido, ni perdón. (Bergoglio continues being investigated for the (Catholic) church’s participation in crimes against humanity. Neither do I forget nor forgive.) (Argentinian)

Pope with Dictator

  • Que Dios bendiga e ilumine al nuevo Papa. Primer Papa latinoaméricano! (May God bless and enlighten the new Pope.  The first Latin American Pope!!) (Colombian)

Papa-Bahia-Bengala-Orissa-India_IECIMA20130314_0065_13

With such big news and many jokes to be made relating this to Argentine culture, the photos and jokes won’t stop.  Here’s a few for you, and if they don’t make sense, google Argentina and you’ll find out why.

Pope Francis with San Lorenzo pennant

Messi and Maradona and Sisteen chapel

Pope and Messi

parilla built in

The new communion - fernet

And then there was a very unfortunate typo, or was it photoshopped?

PS – You don’t need to speak Spanish to see the typo.

Ereccion

And like Spanglish Exchange Buenos Aires picture, I can’t bare to not include the following picture for your reference.  The Spanish word for potato “Papa” is also the same word for Pope. The difference is in the article. (Potato = la papa, Pope = el Papa).

Potatoe and pope

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/03/130314_cultura_chistes_papa_aa.shtml

The Dollar Language

There are certain moments in history that scar a country forever; they leave deep wounds and change societal habits and attitudes all together.  The 2001 economic crisis in Argentina, also known as “El Corralito”, is one of these events.  El Corralito is the diminutive of “el corral” and means a small animal pen, a small enclosure, or a children’s play pin, all of which show the severe limitations that this government measure put on the people.

A brief history: Around 2001 the Argentine peso was losing value and in fear of losing more, Argentines started to pull their money from banks in large quantities and convert it to a more stable currency, like the US dollar.  Eventually the government froze all bank accounts and only allowed those who were seeking pesos to get funds, in small quantities of course.  The greatest blow (golpe) to the people was that the government converted funds/accounts in US dollars to Argentine pesos at a 1 to 1 rate, where the AR peso was really valued at 4 pesos to $1 US dollar.  In other words, if you had $4,000 US dollars before El Corralito, the money was worth 16,000 pesos, but afterwards, $4,000 dollars was worth 4,000 pesos instead…

Argentina is a country with an average annual inflation somewhere between 25% and 30%, although the government will tell you otherwise.  The country also has a habit of printing money, which only in turn lowers its value.  In the last few months, the government has halted the purchase (or conversion) of AR pesos to US dollars all together, which has consequently increased not only the demand for dollars but also the value of the US dollar, on the black market.  Today there are several dollars in fact, which really means several exchange rates—depending on what you are trying to do—but ironically a dollar being sold on the black market isn’t called the “Black Dollar” and is instead called the “Blue Dollar”, or el Dólar Blue.

Why blue and not black?  To make it not sound so bad, really.  The dollars have their own language, what I call the Dollar Language.

As of today, the 29th of August, the exchanges of different dollars are as follows:

  • Dólar Oficial (aka: Official Exchange) – 4.65 pesos to $1USD
  • Dólar Light Blue (aka: Real Estate Dollar)* – 5.51 pesos to $1USD
  • Dólar Blue (aka: Black Market/Informal/Parallel) – 6.37 pesos to $1USD
  • Dólar Green (aka: Arbolitos – little trees)* – 6.57 pesos to $1USD

*The Light Blue Dollar is the rate between the official and the black market dollar used for anything related to real estate.  It is also known as “Dólar Inmobiliaria” or “Dólar Building.”  The Green Dollar, or Arbolito (small tree), is the rate people selling and buying on the streets use, commonly in high tourist areas.

What has caused these different rates and where does the beloved and sought-after “Dólar Blue” rate come from?  Scarcity of anything drives up the price.  Although many things are different and better than they were in 2001, for anyone living here we hope this isn’t a case of history repeating itself.  For now most people I talk to are just waiting to see what happens, following the rates everyday, and hoping no one is too blue later…

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Peanut Butter, It’s like Gold

I love peanut butter.  I guess I fell in love with it during the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and yet I didn’t know how much I loved it until it became difficult to get.  It’s a great and easy snack, with a great taste, and it’s really American I now see.

I can get peanut butter in BA, but if you find it, it’s either a creamy color paste with a lot of oil on the top, or you’re going to pay a lot for a small amount, which I have been and would be willing to do, if I was really desperate.  I was in fact holding out on the peanut butter purchase until my trip to the US, where I could maybe get a friend with a Costco membership to help me buy an irregularly large jar (those who know Costco are smiling now), or maybe I’d just find one at a typical grocery store.

So I found it, a large but not obnoxious jar of Jif, and I bought it.

The time then came to return.  I packed my bags and knew I was a little over weight-wise.  Arriving at the airport, I inevitably had to reorganize as I was about 10 pounds over in a bag!  You don’t realize how much things like shoes weigh… or jars of peanut butter.

So I placed the Jif in my carry-on and proceeded through security only to find out that peanut butter is considered a liquid according to US airport regulations.  No!  That meant that I couldn’t take it on the plane as it was clearly not a 3 oz. container.  I wasn’t shocked but disappointed, well yes.  I even told the security guard, who was surprisingly understanding and apologetic that where I’m going “it’s like gold.”  He too must know how special it is for expats.

Peanut butter is an American taste I’ve realized.  There’s a Latin American equivalent: Dulce de Leche, although not in taste.  I think it’s an equivalent in the fact that it’s a well liked taste that is used everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  It’s hard to get a dessert without it in fact.  And then what about Vegemite for Aussies, or Nutela for the Germans-neither of which I really know how they are viewed culturally but I suspect it’s similar to enjoying peanut butter?  It’s an acquired taste of the cultures you see!

Judging by a new product, it looks like Cheerios understands the importance of taste, (although they compare Dulce de Leche to caramel when someone who really knows about Dulce de Leche will tell you they aren’t the same.)

And now look to the left.  The beloved peanut butter.

It’s become more important to me than ever.  I’m back in Colorado due to travel complications, and of course I’ll buy another jar.  Maybe Jif or Peter Pan, definitely creamy.  I thought I had missed my chance.  Glad I didn’t.

Here are some language notes about Dulce de Leche, which is said to be an Argentine invention by the way.  Different countries have different ways of calling it:

  • Argentina and Uruguay: Dulce de Leche
  • Chile and Ecuador: Manjar
  • Colombia, Peru and Venezuela: Manjar blanco (or) arequipe (depending on the region)
  • Mexico: Cajeta (and not exactly the same product)

For more information on Dulce de Leche (as there’s more to read than you expect): go here.

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Destiny and Destination: A Case of Yin and Yang

I enjoy philosophizing and pondering the mysteries of life, so it was no surprise many years ago when I brought a book of questions on a camping trip, to think about around the fire.

  • Is happiness made or found?

To me it’s the same as asking what matters more, the destination or the journey?  English calls ‘destiny’ and ‘destination’ by two separate words, like them being two different things entirely, where in Spanish they are but one word, the same word-destino.  Of course you know by context which you are talking about, but it led me to think just how different are these two things?

A student described destiny as “something you can’t control,” and destination as “something you can control.”  So perhaps this is an example of the ying and yang, two opposite forces coexisting in the same word?  Then there’s the concept of fate and destiny already being determined for you, so why try to control anything?

One could ponder for hours on this topic and don’t tempt me!  But one thing I want to say is that I see this language reflection in culture.  In my experience thus far living in Latin America, I see people living more in the moment, many times because they have to.  Their resources, the government or the economy (all three interconnected) don’t allow them to plan their future destinations, or when they try to a crisis hits which keeps them where they are.  Many in Argentina tell you they’re use to living in crisis so they’ve become accustomed to problem solving in the moment.

There are people of all kinds both here in Buenos Aires and in the United States, so it’s unfair to generalize, but I don’t think many people would disagree that American culture requires you to think of and plan for the future.  It requires you to think about where you’re going to end up, because much of the lifestyle is built around this idea.  One good factor is that usually the country was stable enough to allow you to plan.  Key word: “usually” and not always.

Language is a critical part of any culture and I think we’d all be fooling ourselves if we didn’t believe there was a deep connection between language and culture.  The better question, one for the next camping trip: which influences which-language influencing culture or culture influencing language?

  • “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

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