31 July 2010

Throw it out the window!

In English there is actually a specific word for the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The word is "defenestration". The word originally meant "political dissent" but in the year 1618 a couple of high government officials were thrown from a castle in Prague which started the Thirty Years War and the incident was called "The Defenestration of Prague". Ever since, the word defenestration is synonymous with getting pitched out of a window.

Many years ago back in the Dreamtime when I was a Boy Scout we had a favorite campfire song called "Throw it out the window!". We would divide into two groups and to each group or "side" a leader was appointed. The song was a competitive game and the object was for one side to sing a nursery rhyme verse and append to it a chorus of "Throw it out the window". Then the other side would sing a verse from a different nursery rhyme and repeat the chorus. The side that could sing the most nursery rhyme verses without repeating one was the winner. Yours truly was often picked to be a leader and my side won more often than not because I really enjoy singing and worked hard at winning this competition. The song would go something like this:

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone,

But when she got there the cupboard was bare,

So she threw it out the window, the window,

The second story window,

Hi-Lo, Lo-Hi

Throw it out the window.

Jack be nimble Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick,

And throw it out the window, the window,

The second story window,

Hi-Lo, Lo-Hi

Throw it out the window.

So, how would we say "Throw it out the window" in Spanish? If you look up the word "throw" in your Spanish / English dictionary you will see several Spanish verbs that are synonymous with "throw" and the most common are "lanzar", "echar", "tirar" and "aventar" so which one do you use? Well, if you have noticed while driving in Mexico there are signs along the highway that say "No tire basura" which literally means "don't throw trash" but might be better translated as "Don't toss your trash". The verb "tire" (TEE-ray) is the third person singular (polite form) of the present subjunctive tense which is also the third person singular imperative. You don't need to remember the names for the tenses. I jut "threw" that in for my friend Dale. Now here is the "kicker". To say "Throw it out the window" in Spanish you would generally say "Tiralo por la ventana". I can already hear you asking, "Why tiralo and not "tirelo"? Because in the second person singular imperative you say "Tira" for "throw" and "No tires" for "don't throw". Now you ask, "Well how the heck am I going to remember all that?". The answer is that you aren't. That's why you need to memorize the phrases in their entirety so that they will pop into your brain in the correct form when you need them.

Well, then what are the other verbs for? In general you would use "lanzar" to mean "launch" as in "launch a spear" or "to pitch" as in "to pitch a baseball". A baseball pitcher is a "lanzador". We normally use aventar" in the sense of "throwing" or "tossing" something to some person as in "Aviéntame eso" or "Toss that to me". Note that "aventar" is an irregular verb and the stem changes from "avent" to "avient". The verb "echar" on the other hand has more of the sense of "move something from one place to another or from one condition to another." You might want to "echar" someone "a la fregada" or "al carajo" meaning "send them to hell". The phrase "echar de perder" combines the verbs for "throw" and "lose" to mean that something like meat, fruit, or vegetables are spoiling. It would be really worth your while to spend some time investigating and studying the different uses of these four Spanish verbs...and remember...NO TIRE BASURA!

26 July 2010

Move it on over...

The other day at a fiesta when I was watching some young people sorting out their seating arrangements so as to situate themselves "boy-girl-boy-girl I was reminded that it is important to learn the subtleties of different Spanish words. There are several ways to ask someone (or tell someone) to take a different seat and depending upon what words you use you can sound polite and supplicating or you can sound harsh and bossy. I have several examples which I divided into the"Scoot over!" category and the "Move your butt!" category. In the "Scoot over!" category I use the verbs "recorrer" and "mover":

¿Te puedes recorrer un poco?
Could you scoot over a little.

Recórrete para alla por favor.
Scoot yourself over there please.

Muévete tantito porfis.

Move over a little please. (Note: The word "porfis", pronounced "POR-fees", is slang for "por favor".

In the "Move your butt!" category I use the verbs "hacer", echar", and "mover".

¡Oye! Hazte para alla.
Hey! Put yourself over there.

¡Oye Güey! ¡Échate pa' alla!".
Hey man! Get yourself over there! (Note: The word "pa" is short for "para".)


Myself, I favor the verb "recorrer" as in:

Juan, recórrete alla y siéntate con Maria por favor.
John, please scoot over there and sit with Mary.

The phrase "scoot over" reminds me of an old Hank Williams song called "Move it on over" that he wrote in the year 1947 just as I was being born into this world. It is a song about a guy who comes home late and finds out that he has been locked out by his wife and he is forced to sleep in the dog house with the dog (again). Since I have had to sleep in the dog house a few times in my illustrious career I can somewhat relate to this song.

"Move It On Over"
(Hank Williams 1947)

Came in last night about a half past ten
That baby of mine she wouldn't let me in
So move it on over (move it on over)
Move it on over (move it on over)
Move over little dog cause a big dog's movin in

Shes changed the lock on our front door
My door key it don't fit no more
So get it on over (move it on over)
Scoot it on over (move it on over)
Move over skinny dog cause a fat dog's moving in

This dog house here is mighty small
But it's better than no house at all
So ease it on over (move it on over)
Drag it on over (move it on over)
Move over old dog cause a new dog's moving in

She told me not to play around
But I done let the deal go down
So pack it on over (move it on over)
Tote it on over (move it on over)
Move over nice dog cause a mad dog's moving in

She warned me once, she warned me twice
But I don't take no one's advice
So scratch it on over (move it on over)
Shake it on over (move it on over)
Move over short dog cause a tall dog's moving in

She'll crawl back to me on her knees
But I'll be busy scratching fleas
So slide it on over (move it on over)
Sneak it on over (move it on over)
Move over good dog cause a bad dog's moving in

Remember pup, before you start to whine
That side's yours and this side's mine
So shove it on over (move it on over)
Sweep it on over (move it on over)
Move over cold dog cause a hot dog's moving in.

25 July 2010

The ties that bind...

I had a wonderful time yesterday. Gina and I attended the Quinceañera celebration for her first cousin Silvia's daughter. The young lady's name is Jackeline Gómez Hernández and we call her "Jackie" for short. I have known her since she was five years old and she was such a tomboy that I have been amazed and delighted to watch her grow up to be a beautiful blossom on the tree of life. The festivities began at the church where all of her friends and relatives joined with her in celebrating a mass in her honor. After mass she was driven all over the neighborhood in a car decked out with flowers, ribbons, and balloons and all of this time the driver (my wife Gina) was tapping out 1-2, 1-2-3 on the horn in the pattern that is sacrosanct to Mexican quinceañera celebrations...


Later on her family had a big party for her in a very nice rented hall where we all danced to a live band and made merry. Suddenly the thought struck me that there are so many little girls that I once held in my arms as babies who will soon become my dancing partners at their quinceañeras. I am very happy to know all of these young ladies and their counterparts, the young gentlemen. There are many, many kids here who call me "Tio Bob" (Uncle Bob) even though we are not related. In England they have a phrase that goes "and Bob's your uncle" meaning "there you have it" or "you're all set". If you are a young person living in Irapuato, Guanajuato there is good chance that "Bob" really is your "uncle".

In the past I have been a little cranky about having to attend so many baptisms, confirmations weddings, funerals, birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, saints days, and novenas, etc. Now, however I am learning to realize that these things are important, especially in Mexico, because they are the little ties that hold society together. I hope that God grants me the privilege of attending many more of these events and that He blesses Jackie while HE and I both watch her leave adolescence and grow into womanhood. Wouldn't it be nice if I could dance with her daughter some day at her own daughter's quinceañera. Hmmm...I don't know. I think that might be what the test pilots call "pushing the envelope".

17 July 2010

Do you know where Hell is?

In one of my favorite musicals of all time "Paint Your Wagon", Lee Marvin sings a song called "A Wandering Star":

Do you know where Hell is?
Hell is in HELLO!
Heaven is in good-bye
Whenever it's time for me to go.

I sing that same song sometimes after attending a wedding, two baptisms, a baby shower, and a saint's day party all in the same week. Seriously though, where do you suppose Heaven and Hell are located? I am pretty well convinced that Hell must be located right here on Earth because the Devil always seems to be close at hand. I think that Heaven is close by too but for a different reason and in another way. I am proposing that Heaven is in another dimension where the people in Heaven can see us and hear us but we can't hear or see them...except when we are dreaming or when we are troubled and praying. The concept is not as far fetched as you might think.

A long time ago I read a book about dimensions called "Flatland, A romance of many dimensions" written by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884. I highly recommend this simple little book as a starting point for anyone wanting to think some more about dimensions. I recently went back to read it again and you can find a copy on the Internet at http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/. The narrator of the story is a square who lives in a two dimensional world named "Flatland" that is populated by various geometric shapes whose castes are determined by the number of sides they have and all aspiring to be a true circle but never quite achieving it.

One day square has a dream about visiting a one dimensional world named "Lineland" where everything is in a straight line. The people of Lineland are straight lines of various lengths according to their caste and the longest line is the King who is exactly 6.457 inches long. Obviously the people cannot reproduce through touching because their positions in line are fixed and so conception is accomplished through sound. The people have openings at each end of their bodies that emit sounds. For the males one end admits a tenor sound and the other emits a bass sound. I personally find this to be reasonable because I too have openings at both ends, one of which emits a tenor sound and the other a bass. The women of Lineland emit a soprano sound from one end and a contralto end from the other. Thus males and females mate through harmony, frequency, and amplitude. In his dream the square tried without success to make the king of Lineland see anything that is outside the realm of Lineland.

In his dream the narrator is then visited by a sphere from three dimensional "Spaceland", which he cannot comprehend until he sees Spaceland for himself. After the square's mind is opened to new dimensions, he wonders about the theoretical possibility of the existence of a fourth (and a fifth, and a sixth) spatial dimension. He also dreams about a place with one dimension called "Pointland". He discovers that Pointland has only one inhabitant who is the King and who perceives any attempt at communicating with him as simply being a thought originating in his own mind. The square recognizes the connection between the ignorance of the populace of Pointland and Lineland and his own Flatland regarding higher dimensions.

In traditional mathematics and physics, the dimension of a space or object is more or less defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify each point within it. However, there is an emerging theory of physics called "String Theory" that has opened up the possibility that extra dimensions, and parallel universes actually exist. So, now you see what I'm getting at. I think that Heaven is around here somewhere and when we "die" we pass from this dimension to the next just like walking through a door. I believe that some animals like dogs, cats, elephants, and dolphins are aware of at least one other dimension that they can see and we can't. I'll bet that someday we are in for a big surprise. You don't believe me? Don't be such a square!

11 July 2010

You Bet Your Life

Words are wonderfully fascinating things. Besides continuously trying to increase my vocabulary in English and Spanish I subscribe to a number of "Word-of-the-Day" lists in various languages including Mandarin Chinese, French, German, and Portuguese. No...I have no real intentions of becoming fluent in those other languages but it only takes a few minutes a day to learn something new and it is full of surprises. I am reminded of the old Groucho Marx show, "You Bet Your Life!". At the beginning of each show Groucho would "secretly" share a common word with the audience and if a contestant later said the word, a toy duck resembling Groucho with a mustache, eyeglasses, and cigar in its mouth dropped down from above from the ceiling with a $100 bill for the lucky winner. My Dad smoked cigars just like Groucho and he loved that show. I have some very fond memories of watching the show with my Dad.

Today the word on the German vocabulary list was "sich beklagen" meaning "to complain about something". My Dad often used the phrase "Quit your bellyaching" by which he meant "Quit complaining". To say "Quit complaining" in German you could say "Beenden Sie beklagen". That makes me wonder if "bellyaching" might actually come from the German word "beklagen".

The other day the Brazilian Portuguese list had the word "empregada" meaning "maid" as in "domestic maid". In Spanish the word "impregnada" means "one who is impregnated". In the old days servant girls were often fair game for the master of the house and were sometimes impregnated as a result. I wonder if there is a connection between the Portuguese "empregnada" and the Spanish "impregnada". Hmmm...

06 July 2010

Why God created the Devil

My friend Armando Fuentes Aguirre says that God created the Devil so that people would have someone else to blame besides God when things didn’t go exactly the way folks wanted them to. Apparently it worked pretty well for awhile and people got into the habit of thanking God for all the good things in their lives and blaming the Devil for everything that went wrong. By and by the Devil realized what had happened and he became very burdened by the fact that the sole purpose of his existence was to receive blame and he asked God why he had to receive all of the blame and not have anyone to share it with. God thought that was a reasonable question and said, “You know, Lucifer, you make a good point. I guess that is because I made you so smart to begin with. People are naturally reluctant to blame me and so they blame you for every little thing they don’t like. To be fair about it, the people ought to have a choice on whom to blame without any fear of retribution”.

God thought about this for what would seem like several centuries to us but for God it was only a few milliseconds and He came up with a brilliant solution. He created the Government so that people would have something else to blame besides the Devil. Well, things went fine for awhile and people were content to praise and thank God for all the good stuff and blame either the Government or the Devil when things went wrong according to how they were so inclined. By and by, however, the Government decided that it didn’t like being thrown in with the Devil by association because someone in the Government was always being blamed when things went wrong. The higher up in Government you went the more likely you were to receive all the blame. After all, the Government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people"…right? Shouldn’t the same people who elect you to public office share the blame?

About a hundred and fifty years ago the Government found a way to ameliorate its blame problem and decided to charter Corporations. The Corporations consist of individual investors and other Corporations and the Government, not being as smart as the Devil but almost as crafty, arranged it so that no matter what a Corporation does, the individual investors are free from responsibility and thus free from blame and other than losing their money they can wash their hands of any culpability just like Pontius Pilate. You can blame the Corporations all you want but nothing can ever happen to them because they are mostly just smoke and mirrors. Things get shifted around a bit when something goes wrong but they really never die. This is because it just so happened (and to this very day nobody really knows exactly how) the Government gave to the Corporations more rights than to individuals. Some say that this was in return for a promise of campaign contributions and other monetary considerations. Anyway, the result of all this is that these days, in addition to having the Devil and the Government to blame, we have the Corporations to blame, and we can personally avoid blame altogether…unless perhaps we are a Pope, a Potentate, a President, a Prime Minister, or a World Cup Fútbol Coach.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.