Monday, June 27, 2005

Cuban-Americanisms, an opinion about language

George Moneo over at Babalu, had a funny post about a handyman whose business card was filled Cubanisms such as Plaste for Plaster interestingly not all of the feedback was positive. There were some that felt that this poor soul should learn to write properly in English, etc. etc. I think it's much ado about little. There's a natural progression as somebody acculturates to a new society. The guy spelled things as he understood them. Perhaps, he's never even seen them written down. I thought perhaps it was time to remind some people about the origins of some accepted Cubanisms.

First there's Guajiros, the Cuban country folk we've all heard of. According to Adios Cuba the word comes from a faulty translation of War Heroes. It seems that Americans had a great respect for the peasants that fought the Spanish in the war for Cuban Independence.

A Fotingo is a car. Actually it's an old Cuban name for a car. This word is a faulty translation for Ford's slogan "Foot it and Go." The slogan came about because cars of the time had hand controls as well as pedals. The new Ford represented an innovation embodied in the phrase.

So don't make to much fun of the handyman or have too much pity on him. Just remeber him next time you have a cold with congestion and you break out the Bi Ba Po Ru (Vicks Vapor Rub) that you bought at el discount.


Robert said...

I always thought that the term "guajiros" came from the peasants who came to Cuba from the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia. They were called, of course, guajiros.

Don't remember where I heard that, but there could be another origin to the word besides the one you presented.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Yes there may be various possible origins to certain words. But just like th alleged origin of guajiros there's a lot of other examples of words like bistec (beef steak).

Alberto Quiroga said...

Cuban "anglicisms" have always been my favorites, and much used in my own family. For example, mi mamà will still say "baja el vitafón!" when you're being (in her opinion) too loud - this comes from an RCA radio brand in the 20's-30's, "Vitaphone." Then there's "abre el frijidaire," referring to the fridge, and the origin is obvious.

Cuba, la Perla de Las Antillas. "Cubanisms," the Pearls of our language. Whether in English or Spanglish.