20 August 2011

A Blitz for Blitzer

Every day when I get home from work I flip on the boob tube to catch the latest world disaster while I peruse our daily newspaper to learn about whatever local crisis we may be having. I noticed that Wolf Blitzer of CNN always signs off on "The Situation Room" with something like "For our North American viewers John King will follow and for our international viewers we switch you now tho CNN International in Hong Kong" and then in Mexico we are switched to CNN World Report in Hong Kong. He continuously leaves Mexico out of North America. I am taken aback at this so I checked out what geographers consider to be the limits of North America. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by South America, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. North America does not end at the Panama Canal either. The continent is delimited on the southeast by most geographers at the Darién watershed along the Colombia-Panama border which means that all of Panama is within North America.

Why would a supposedly credible newsman make such an erroneous distinction? I decided to write to him and suggest that he might be mistaken. I went to the Wolf Blitzer contact page which can be accessed at http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form4.html?2 and lo and behold I found that the "contact us" page also divides the U.S. and Canada from the rest of the world. If you are writing from the U.S. or Canada there is a drop down box where you can click on your state or province. All other countries a lumped together in one long list. I found Mexico between a country called "Mayotte" that I never heard of and "Micronesia". It turns out that "Mayotte" is a tiny island belonging to France located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar. There is also a box to check to tell Wolf whether your comment is positive or negative. Hmmm, which category do you think he reads? You can also e-mail him directly at wolf@cnn.com or Twitter him at @wolfblitzercnn. Either way however, I don't think he will include Mexico within North America without enough people pointing out his error and questioning whether it is a deliberate slight or just a gap in his understanding of what constitutes North America. Hasn't he ever heard of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that includes Mexico, Canada, and the United States?

Sometimes I wonder about these news guys and their hidden agendas. Let's put the "blitz" on Blitzer and restore Mexico to her rightful place on the globe.

¡¡¡ Viva México !!!
¡¡¡ Viva America!!!
¡¡¡ Viva Canada !!!

¡¡¡ Viva North America !!!


18 August 2011

Oh yummy!

It's time for a bit of slang today. In Mexican Spanish there are certain phrases called "modismos"(moh-DEEZ-mohs) that cannot be translated literally and you need to learn what a phrase means in total context and not just word for word. One example would be the phrase "echar de menos". The verb "echar" literally means "to throw" as in "to throw out" and "de menos" means "less" or "wanting" or "missing". Taken as an entire phrase or "modismo" the phrase "echar de menos" means "to miss someone".

Te voy a echar de menos.
I am going to miss you.

Te echaré de menos.
I will miss you.

Another interesting phase is "dormir a pierna suelta". Taken apart word for word, "dormir" is "to sleep", "pierna" means "leg", and suelta means "loose". Often "dormir a pierna suelta" is translated as "to sleep like a log" but that is not entirely correct because to "to sleep like a log" would be "dormir como un tronco". A better translation would be "to sleep soundly" because "dormir a pierna suelta" give the impression of sleeping very well with arms and legs extended all over as opposed to sleeping fretfully rolled up in a tight ball.

Esa noche dormí a pierna suelta y no oí nada.
That night I slept very soundly and I didn't hear anything.

Anoche dormí a pierna suelta y no me enteré de nada.
Last night I slept very soundly and I wasn't aware of anything.

So...as long as we are talking about sleeping, how would you say that you couldn't sleep? You could just say:

No pude dormir anoche.
I couldn't sleep last night.

Or...if you wanted to use a phrase similar to the English phrase "I couldn't sleep a wink" you could use the modismo "pegar las pestañas" meanig "to glue eyelashes shut".

No pude pegar las pestañas en toda la noche.
I couldn´t sleep a wink all night.

On the other hand...if you were "burning the midnight oil" you would use the modismo "quemarse las pestañas" or "burning the eyelashes" as in:

Anoche me estuve quemando las pestañas estudiando español.
Last night I burned the midnight oil studying Spanish.

But...what would you say if you want to take a nap? You could simply say "Voy a dormir una siesta" meaning "I amgoing to take a nap". Or...you could dress it up a bit with a modismo as in:

Voy a echar una pestañada.
I'm going to take a little nap. (I am going to shut my eyelashes for a bit.)

Voy a echar un coyotito.
I am going to take a quick little nap. (Note: "coyotito comes from the word "coyote" because coyotes are nocturnal animals that sleep only a few minutes at a time during the day.)

Voy a echar una jetita.
I am going to take a snooze. (Note: "jetita" comes from the word "jeta" meaning "mug face" or "slack face", or in other words the face of someone who is sleeping deeply.)

If you wake up a little crabby and woozy, and swollen faced from your nap you can say:

Me quedé bien jetón.
I am still half asleep and woozy.

Here is another modismo on a different subject. In English, when we have to walk somewhere, we say we went by "shank's mare" or "shank's pony" or we had to "hoof it". In Spanish they use the woud "pata" which means "hoof" or "paw" as in "andar a pata".

Voy a andar a pata.
I am going to walk. (I am going to hoof it.)

No tengo ni coche, ni moto, ni bicicleta, ni dinero para tomar un camión así que tengo que andar a pata a todos lados.
I have neither car, nor motorcycle, nor bicycle, nor money to take a bus so I have to hoof it everywhere.

That's about it for today except for a reminder that if you want to be hip you have to keep up with new phrases in Spanish just like you do in English. The latest modismo that I learned is "ñami ñami" (NYAH-mee NYA-mee). The word "ñami" means "milk" or "to milk" in the language of the Guarani people who are an indigenous people from South America's interior (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia). Paraguayan Guarani is actually an official language of Paraguay. As I understand it, the youth of Chile started using the word "ñami" to describe a sexy looking young lady in a manner similar to how Mexican males sometimes use the word "mamacita" to mean the same. In Mexico the word "ñami" has taken on the meaning of anything delicious or "yummy" especially when it is repeated twice as in "ñami ñami" (or "yum-yum").

Ese plato de fresas con crema parece ñami ñami.
That plate of strawberries with cream looks yummy.

Ah, fresas con crema...ñami ñami.
Ah, strawberries with cream...yum-yum.

One final word. Modismos can add color to your Spanish and be lots of fun but you must memorize them carefully, practice them first with friends who can correct you if you go astray, and you should be judicious in their use. Go ahead and enjoy them but be careful.

06 August 2011

Booby Fruit

In my last post which was entitled "Fanny Fruit" I wrote about the Fig, the Mango Manila, and in particular, the Mango Petacón. Today I am writing about another favorite fruit of mine, the "Mamey Sapote" (mah-MAY sah-POH-tay) which is commonly called simply "mamey". The mamey sapote looks like a little brown football. Whenever I see one I have to stifle the urge to pick it up and throw a touchdown pass to my wife Gina. The problem is that the people in the market frown on this practice and so does Gina. The outer skin has a texture somewhat between sandpaper and the fuzz on a peach. To choose a mamey you scratch the outer skin with your fingernail. If it is ripe the inner skin will appear red. Even though the inner skin is red, if the mamey is still a bit firm you need to let it sit for a day or two (or three) until it becomes slightly soft to the touch. You open a mamey the same way you would open an avocado. First cut all around it lengthwise down to the seed and then separate the two halves. Inside you will find a smooth and creamy orange colored treat that tastes sweet and musky. Some people say that it tastes like a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato but I say that a mamey tastes just like a mamey...it has a distinct flavor all to its own. I like to enhance the flavor by squeezing lime juice over it. Mamey can also be incorporated into milkshakes, smoothies, ice cream, and fruit bars. Yum!

The mamey sapote is indigenous to Mexico and in the native Nahuatl language mamey sapote is "tetzontzapotl". The first part "tezon" comes from the native word for tezontle which is a red volcanic rock that was used for constructing temples and also used extensively by the Spanish during the colonial period as a general building material. The reddish brown color of tezontle is similar to the color of mamey. The second part of "tetzontzapotl" or "tzapotl" is a Nahuatl term for a soft, edible fruit and it is from "tzapotl" that we get "sapote". In fact the Latin taxonomic name Sapotaceae for the the plant family that contains the mamey was derived from "sapote". So, where did the name "mamey" come from? Well, that too, is an interesting story.

These days the genus and species names for the mamey sapote are "Pouteria sapota". There are 188 species that belong to the genus "Pouteria". The name comes from the term "pourama-pouteri" meaning "eggfruit" in the language of the natives on the northeast coast of South America. Originally, however, the taxonomic name for the mamey was "Achras mammosa" back in the early 1700's when the scientific names for the plants of Central and South America were still being sorted out. The word "achras" means "wild pear tree" in Latin and the word "mammosa" is formed from the Latin root mamma, meaning "breast", with the suffix -ose, which adds the meaning of "abounding in", "full of", or "rich in". There was a mythical Roman goddess named Fortuna Mammosa who was purported to have such qualities. Since the mamey fruit really does resemble a pendulous breast the transition from "mammosa" to "mamey" was only natural. That is why I call the mamey "booby fruit". I just love those boobies.

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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.