Sunday, February 1, 2009

phonetic spelling of English words in Spanish causes mayhem, news at 11:00

The English vowel sound system. Oh! the English vowel sound system causes problems, it does. There's that whole marry/Mary/merry dichotomy (trichotomy? certainly not a tracheotomy) where native English speakers have one, two or three pronunciations of those words, depending on where they are from. I had three growing up, with a fierce Brooklyn accent of which only one audio tape exists, and would otherwise morph into the memory of childhood, like the time I was jumping rope in sandals and managed to get the rope between my toes and the shoes, yank my feet up out from under me and land in a bruised heap upon my tender knees. On the pebbly sidewalk. Ow.

At any rate, I used to have three, and now that my accent has flattened, I have two, and many native speakers of other languages just look at me sadly when I pronounce one and then the other and they hear nary (no pun intended) a difference. For more details on the marry, Mary merry merger and more phonetics than you ever wanted to know, click here.

Spanish has a much more limited vowel-sound pallete, which is made up for by the existence of thankfully now only two subjunctive tenses (the future has all but disappeared) and the tricky single r, which for some reason vexes me more than the double r, regardless of how many times I chant the trabalenguas (tonguetwister) about the railroad and other fun words with r and rr.

Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre carril, rapido ruedan los carros de la ruedas del ferrocarril.

Ahem. So Spanish doesn't have all the vowel sounds of English. Chileans love to borrow English words. This leads to some very... strange spellings (and later pronunciations of borrowed words).

Consider the following spelling and pronunciation of our fun DJ pituto (which itself means a nepotism-like favor system extended to friends). Behold, the diyei. You know, the diyei. Sounds like some Yiddish fearmongering word. Watchit! the diyei knows where you sleep!

But the true prize on this poster is actually in the lower right hand corner. I'll give you a minute to find it.

At the door the price is 2,500 pesos (about four dollars at today's exchange rate). But if you bring a flayer with you, that's right, a flayer, a person who tears flesh off of animals, (which in Spanish would be a despellejador) well then it's only 2,000 pesos.

Seems like a bad idea to me to invite flayers to your concert, but hey, anything to save a buck. Or in this economy about 75 cents.


Shawn said...

Great posts!
I really enjoy your perspectives on the world around you. Your bus article on bootsnall was also a fun and informative read. Bearshapedsphere is fast becoming a regular daily read for me.
Keep up the great work! :)

Incidentally, I'm planning a solo trip to Santiago at the end of February or early March. Any sage advice for a fellow exporer/writer? Places I should go or perhaps avoid? Good places to stay etc? Any advice would be helpful!



Eileen said...

Shawn, thanks for your positivity! Drop me an email ( and I'll see if I can point you to some good Santiago info. I'm deadly curious why you'd come to this farflung corner of the world. I hope you'll get to see the rest of Chile, too. Now that's vacationworthy.

Marite said...

Ha ha ha!!! Oh my goodness! I saw the "flayer" right away, and totally got what it meant.

This used to happen in Latvia ALL THE TIME. I'm sure it still does- I'm just not there to read it. Lord would we laugh sometimes. Thanks for making me remember.

Oh, and by the way, your description of the jump-roping incident made me go, "Ooohhweeeee!" right outloud. Ouch. Except I was expecting knocked out teeth, so glad that didn't happen.