Sunday, September 07, 2008



For some light, Sunday blogging, let’s have a look at a petit peeve of mine. Yes, yes, I know, but it’s my blog, and I get to be peevish if I want to, capiche?

And what is it that I’m often peevish about? Language, claro. This time, though, it’s not about English; it’s about how people sprinkle dreck from other languages into their English, all willy-nilly and such. Maybe when we do that, it separates us from hoi polloi, makes us seem ein bisschen above the next guy. Or maybe it just gives us naches.

Ethnic groups do it a lot, sticking bits of their native/ancestral languages in amidst the English (or sometimes the other way ’round). It comes naturally there, of course. Listen to Latinos in New York City, and you’ll hear what we call Spanglish. Listen to Orthodox Jews, and you might need subtitles to follow it, as Hebrew and Yiddish (which are, in case you don’t know, entirely unrelated to each other) are just normal parts of speech.

That’s not what peeves me.

It’s that I prefer that it be done correctly. It bothers me when people pretend to stick phrases in, and they get them wrong — sometimes a little wrong, sometimes vastly so. There is, for example, the old “please RSVP,” from people who don’t know that the “SVP” part is already an abbreviation for the French s’il vous plait, which means... “please.”

There are two sehr common ones I want to pick on here. The first is the faux-Spanish no problemo. A Google search on that phrase (in quotes, so it finds it intact) yields about 1.5 million hits, including — yes, get this — a Wikipedia entry for it.

The thing is, the word for “problem” in Spanish is feminine[1] ends with an “a”, and the phrase should be no problema (2.3 million Google hits on that one) or ningún problema.

OK, now that you can speak Spanglish sin ningún problema, we’ll hit my second whine: introducing a follow-up about a subject as “part deux” (almost 3.5 million Google hits). The problema I have with this one is that it doesn’t put enough of the phrase in French: I want the whole “part two” thing to be in French, or else it sounds inane. That’d be partie deux, literally, as partie is French for “part”. Except I’m told that that’s not the idiom, and the phrase really should be deuxième partie (literally, “second part”, and that gets a whopping 7.6 million hits).

OK, well. That’s it for today. Zei gesund.

[1] As Simon points out in the comments, it is masculine, despite the ending.


Simon said...

Despite the -a, problema is a masculine noun, so it would be "algún problema".

See e.g.

Old Cranky Redneck said...

What language did you get "capiche" from? The word in Italian is "capisce". The pronunciation of your word would be something like kah-pee-kay, not kah-pee-sheh.

Barry Leiba said...

Yeah, "capiche" is a silly one: it's slang, derived from Italian but not actually Italian.

But, then, the whole post is meant to be light. Nu?

Old Cranky Redneck said...

Sure... me too ;-) but you were complaining about misuse of foreign terms, ne c'est pas?.