Friday, March 30, 2007

Do not get married by a piglet

Two weeks ago, I read in the Catalan e-papers an unbelievable story. A Catalan couple who lived in Madrid, went back to Barcelona in order to have their wedding ceremony held in Catalan.
To their dismay, the judge refused to marry them in Catalan. The were told that if they wanted to get married in Catalan, they had to wait to the end of the day, after all the other couples were married, and after that, maybe someone would marry them in Catalan. The name of the judge is Antonio Lechón (literally Anthony Piglet).
The even more amazing thing is that the judge was getting an allowance (additional monies on top of his salary as judge) because he had demonstrated command of the Catalan language.

The couple sued the judge and they lost. The reason: judges are not required to speak Catalan, even if operating in Catalonia and, apparently, even if they are paid additional money for having demonstrated proficiency in the Catalan language.

But we should not be surprised, this is another clear demonstration that Catalonia is still in a colonial situation as it has been in the last 300 years.

It all started with the Decree of New Foundation issued on January 16th, 1716 by King Philip V. In the 6th paragraph, he clearly states:
"Las causas en la Real Audiencia (de Barcelona) se substanciaran en lengua Castellana, y para que por la mayor satisfacion de las partes, los incidentes de las Causas, se traten con mayor deliberacion, mando que todas las Peticiones, presentaciones de Instrumentos, y lo demas que se ofreciere, se haga en las Salas...." (this can be summarized as 'all proceedings in the Barcelona Supreme Court will be held in Castilian languange only').
For the first time in the history of Catalonia (and the County of Barcelona), Castilian was imposed as the only language that could be used in legal procedings. Before that date (1716), Catalan and Latin (in some documents) were used. Castilian was, up to that point, a foreign language.

This Decree has never been revoked and it is therefore, legally speaking, still applicable. For this reason, we should not be surprised about Mr. Piglet winnimg the case.

Conclusion: Never get married by a Piglet!!!

By the way, since we are talking about pigs, let me tell you a free translation of a joke that Johnny Tastavins forwarded to me yesterday:

José Maria Aznar, Eduardo Zaplana, Ángel Acebes were driving to downtown Madrid in a stretched limo to meet Zapatero. When they were still in the outskirts of Madrid, three pigs suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. The driver was unable to avoid them, hit them and killed them on the spot. The three politicians of the conservative Popular Party got out of the car and inspected the damage to the Party's limo and noticed that it was severely dented. When Rajoy saw the extent of the damage, he got mad and told the driver: "Go right now and find out who the owner of these three pigs is, I am going to sue him. We will wait for you here". After a couple of hours, they saw the driver staggering towards them. He was drunk, had red eyes and a smiley face. Zaplana asked him: "What happened? Did you find that bastard?". The driver nodded and said "it was a farmer and he gave me this expensive bottle of brandy, his wife gave me this box of cigars and his daughter gave me three blow jobs".
Acebes interjected, "what did you tell them?.
The driver answered. "I just told them that I was the driver of Aznar, Zaplana and Acebes, that I had an accident and I had killed three pigs".

Friday, March 16, 2007

'John Cleese is the son of a bitch' would rhyme for Manuel

The comments deserve something a little more elaborated than a laconic reply. Therefore I have decided to make a post.

I would like to thank Tom for the clarification. I have changed the text to put the blame only on John Cleese, what makes me feel much better, because I actually like many of the other works of Monty Python, especially Brian's life. I also agree that Manuel is a nice guy. Most probably he would make a much better job representing Barcelona than our current rising star of diplomacy, Carod-Rovira.

I would also like to take some time to reply to Garci.
I can understand that your intellectually challenged friends (aka retarded or intellectually disabled) resonate with Manolo.
It is funny, however, that you do not identify yourself with him, but you have no problem to link him with the non Catalan speaking population born in Barcelona. By the way, the fact that 50% of the people from Catalonia does not have Catalan as mother tongue, does not mean that they do not speak Catalan (the percentage of Barcelona born people who speak Catalan is in the high 90s) and it does not mean either that they have Castilian or Andalusian accent. In general those Catalans who were born in Catalonia and have Spanish as mother tongue speak pretty neutral Spanish, sometimes with a slight palatal l and ll and use some Catalan words to describe some specific things where the Catalan word fits better, as for example “plegar” (finish your workday or quite a job voluntarily).

Regarding languages, I speak Dutch and German, Catalan and Spanish, and from all points of view, grammar, vocabulary and phonetics the percentage of correlation is very close in those 2 pairs (80% to 85% depending on the text, if you use kadoje instead of geschenk, the correlation is lower, for instance). Flemish and Dutch have dialectal differences similar to Catalan and Valencian, with a fundamental difference, in 1980 the Dutch and Belgian governments signed the “Taalunieverdrag”, a treaty that recognized that Dutch and Flemish were the same language under the name of Nederlands.

As usual, I will ignore your “under the belt” attack. Those things I mention are common themes for the Catalan stereotype in the rest of the Spain, used in jokes and parodies, and that have a certain foundation, although they are normally an exaggeration or a distortion of reality. And about my kids, I am trying to do my best to educate them well and I make them citizens of the world. However, I had my 8 year old daughter next to me when I was preparing the previous posting and she saw the video clip and asked me, are the people from Barcelona so stupid? Although she has never lived in Barcelona, she was born there. I did not reply, just closed the window.

And yes, I am upset and pissed off and I have the right to be. To be frank I would also be upset (maybe slightly less, but still upset) if Manuel had been from Madrid or Seville and a little been upset if Manuel had been from South America. However I would have enjoyed the series, if he had been Italian or French. Because I like Spain and the Spanish people. My problem is that Spain is now an enlarged Castile, and all efforts are being made to shield any other cultures and languages from the rest of the world. Today’s Spain is not my country, I do not feel represented at all, as I do not feel represented by Manuel.

But judge by yourself, let me copy and paste the description of the character from Wikipedia:
“Manuel, a waiter played by Andrew Sachs, is a well-meaning but disorganised and constantly confused Spaniard from Barcelona with a poor grasp of the English language and customs. He is constantly verbally and physically abused by his boss. He is afraid of Mr. Fawlty's quick temper and violent assaults, yet often expresses his appreciation for being given the position. When told by either Basil, Sybil, or Polly what to do, he answers, "Qué?", which means 'What?', and "Sí", which means 'Yes'.
The character's nationality was switched to Mexican for the Spanish dub of the show broadcast to most of Spain, while in the Basque region he is an Italian called Manolo”

And do not forget that when they try to explain to others the rootcause of his imbecility, they justify it as saying, “he is from Barcelona”.

I know it is difficult for you to understand the feeling since you are not from Barcelona, but Tom or even you, if you love UK, can get a taste of it when reading my rant about the British bitches, meant to be a figure of speech without much sophistication.
And the problem is that those stereotypes stick for years, especially among certain parts of the society and they are difficult to change. Be honest and tell me how would you react if you read a piece of news saying that Harvard university has decided to establish its European campus in Lepe.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I am sorry, I am from Barcelona

I am just back from China. I got a couple of excellent Chinglish examples that I will publish in a couple of weeks. I am jetlagged and tired, but I need to write something about Faulty Towers.
Today I had a quite high level meeting with some pretty senior people. Whenever someone asks me where I am from, I always say, I am from Barcelona. I have a hard time to say that I am from Spain, and if I say I am from Catalonia, most of the people say Cata-what?, so since I left Spain 15 years ago I always say Barcelona.
In the meeting I met a Dutch guy who, when I said Barcelona (pronounced in the American way), told me with a grin, I thought you called it “Barthelona” (pronounced as in Spanish). I told him that we , Catalans, call it Barcelona (very close pronunciation to the English one) and that Barthelona is in Spanish, not our mother tongue.
He then told me: but Catalan and Spanish are basically the same language, like Dutch and Flemish. I replied to him that the difference between Catalan and Spanish is the same, more or less, that between Dutch and German. The he argued, the latter are definitely two different languages. I replied that it only took me three weeks to learn Dutch after having learned German (what, by the way, is true) and that I am not “Manuel”.

The reason why the Dutch guy was grinning is because of the British series “Faulty Towers”. One of the main characters of the TV series is “Manuel”, a stupid, clumsy, strongly Spanish accented waiter from, yes, Barcelona, a true stereotype of the Spain of bullfighting and flamenco that the dictator Francisco Franco sold to the world.

I saw one episode of the series once and I could not stand it. I made me vomit. I has nothing to do with our Catalan culture. I do not mind being laughed at, because we dance the most boring dance in the world, the “sardana”, or because we make human towers (“castellers”) or because we are stingy, or because we work when the other party. I do not mind to be called Polish because we speak a different language or singled out because my real Catalan first and middle names are unpronounceable by an average Spaniard, but I cannot swallow the fact that they laugh at me for things I consider are foreign to me as the Balinese dance.

Some time ago I wrote to the Catalan government and the Barcelona town hall asking them to initiate legal action against Monty Python. I did not even get a reply from them. I think they were too busy siphoning money from the law abiding citizens. I hope I can find, one day, a lawyer who is willing to start a class action law suit. If that happens, I am willing to support with one thousand dollars.

For my ease of mind, let me say that I think that Monty Python's John Cleese has done a lot of damage to Barcelona’s reputation in many of the North European countries (thanks God, the series is not popular at all in USA). That's why I have no choice but to qualify him and the other authors as morons, idiots, motherfuckers and sons of some of the hundreds of British bitches that come to Barcelona to get drunk for 2 euros. They may even have a Barcelona father without knowing it.