3 Jul 2011

Mundo de Pedo

Along with the Spanish empire’s long and lofty thrusts across the Americas, came a common language that has permeated areas far and wide.  Learning that language, however, is just a skeleton for then beginning to understand the idiosyncrasies of one region’s use of it. While generally intelligible throughout for all, certain vocabulary and phrases may be household terms in one pocket of Spanish speakers, but hold profane connotations in others. Pendejo in Argentine Spanish describes a rambunctious youngster or punk, but takes its original meaning from the same word in Spain used to mean ‘pubic hair.’ Golosinas which means candies or sweets in Argentina, takes a more sinister spin in Mexican Spanish as it refers to a prostitute. Even Argentina and Chile, two bordering countries, have their linguistic differences. If an Argentine uses the word pico he is referring to a kiss and not, as his Chilean counterpart might misinterpret it, the male reproductive  organ.
While differing translations of the same word reveal one way in which language settles itself down into the nooks and crannies of specific linguistic contexts, we also encounter totally unique vocabularies and word uses in different locations. One of the most intriguing language discoveries I have made in my time here is in an unearthing of the meaning of the mystical word pedo. Unglamorously translated pedo is the literal equivalent  to our fart. Within the Argentine case, however,  pedo is implicated in all kinds of strange contexts and has a complex layering of meanings that goes far beyond simple bathroom humor.

  1. Al pedo- [Literal: To the fart Metaphorical: condition of having no plans or obligations] One of the most common appearances of pedo is used to express boredom or having an excess free time. Come on over, I’m al pedo. What did you do yesterday, nothing I was al pedo the whole day. Pinpointing an English translation for this use of pedo proves rather complicated. While al pedo can sometimes evoke a sense of boredom, it more often designates the nebulous and structureless nature of a particular span of time.

  1. Al pedo- [Literal: To the fart (#2) Metaphorical: in vain, futile, useless, worthless]. While you may notice this is the exact same orthography as example #1, in certain contexts the same words can give you a radically different meaning.
    1. Ex. I went all the way to the mall, but it was al pedo because the store I wanted to go to was closed.
    2. Ex. Al pedo I fixed my bike, because it was stolen a day later.

3.      En pedo- [Literal: In fart Metaphorical: f****d up, crazy]. En pedo refers to a mental state achieved  after the consumption of drugs or alcohol and most likely a potent cocktail of both. Examples: Esa noche estaba re en pedo. [That night I was really f****d up]. Equally en pedo can be used to describe someone who’s not thinking clearly with or without the influence of outside substances. ie What a terrible outfit!? Are you en pedo???

a.       Ni en pedo[nor in fart]—Common phrase using the third definition of pedo describing something you would never do. If some young Argentine,[who you have no interest in] is romancing you in a club and invites you back to his/her car/place, your response Ni en pedo!, Meaning—not even if I were totally f****d up would I do something like that!

  1. Un pedo- [Literal: a fart Metaphorical: a hangover] Directly linked to the third definition of pedo above, this fourth meaning is the belated result of being en pedo for any amount of time—having a pedo. What a pedo I had this morning!

  1. Me mandé un pedo-[Literal: I sent myself a fart Metaphorical: I made a mistake, I really messed up]. In this case pedo’s meaning leans towards something like mistake or error. Sending yourself a fart can cover all kinds off errors from the most trivial occurrences to much more grave situations. With a cursory glance this fourth meaning of pedo seems rather confounding, however, further investigation  reveals some striking similarities between  the ideas of a fart and a mistake. They both can be embarrassing and unexpected and both are rather difficult to recover from if committed in public.  (A little extra trivia: Along similar lines a parallel phrase is used to express the same sentiment interchanging the word pedo with moco- buger. Me mande un mocoI sent myself a buger.)

  1. De pedo [Literal: By fart Metaphorical: By a hair, by luck] ex. De pedo we didn’t crash the car just then. This use of pedo expresses something that just barely happened but then didn’t thanks to the grace of god, or pure luck or in this case a fart. A pedo is not something in which one should put a lot of faith; it is after all gas, microscopic particles of fecal matter, and odor, not a terribly trustworthy combination.

  1. Una nube de pedos [Literal: cloud of farts Metaphorical: in a daze, in the clouds] El vive en una nube de pedos He lives in a cloud of farts, meaning that cede person is spacey, unfocused, in lala land, got his head in the clouds etc. This Argentine cloud, however, is distinctively more repulsive than the harmless water based clouds we English speakers let our heads float into.

Believe it or not, one could probably squeeze a couple more meanings out of this complex vocabulary word not to mention a slur of related words in which pedo is the root. While the meanings listed above are each distinct, they all seem to lead to one single metaphorical character that is the Argentine pedo. Within this conceptual pedo, we encounter a cloudy, unclear type of no-mans land in which the rules and regulations of daily life dissolve. A pedo’s repercussions are unknown and unpredictable and can disrupt the continuity of regular life. Beware of these Argentine pedos, but at the time one might learn to appreciate them for the vibrant and imaginative metaphors they add to colloquial Argentine speech.

20 Jan 2011

The Sumptuous Decline of Grandma´s Mental Health and Life In General

The dedicated reader to these entries may recall the laughable, entertaining, and even heartwarming deeds carried out by my elderly and severely senile grandma housemate. At one point in her career of being crazy, grandma was content pulling a “I’m more than half naked in your kitchen” stunt or the notorious “let me artfully hide your potted plants throughout the property” one. I warn thee, however, that this colorful and carefree time now hangs unimaginable and inert in my past like a cloudy rainbow dream. These occurrences seem like petty child’s play in comparison to the advanced disaster for which she is now capable of inciting. Grandma’s behaviors, along with the evolution of her lunacy, have taken on demonic, terrifying, and gag reflex triggering attributes; and under an acute combination of stress, exhaustion, and frustration, have been known to provoke the occasional tear.
The least offensive of grandma’s new found ticks was her attraction to hiding spots. During the daylight, her hiding in corners, shadows, or amidst leafy plants is not a very effective tactic due to sunlight. Come nighttime, however, Jesus Christ could she be terrifying. Not only is it a shock to find a pair of eyes staring at you from the shadows, but this specific gaze in particular make her surprises that much more intense—hollow skeleton features, toothless chomping, and boney limbs creaking in the dark. More than once she has literally caused me to jump and left me breathless for minutes after. A particular case comes to mind when, after a jog one evening I had stripped down to my sports bra and shorts. Perhaps narcissistically, I began to gaze into my own reflection in the kitchen window. Studying my buns, stomach, and back, something confusing happened when I arrived at the reflection my own face. I could see my features, but the eyes looking back at me were not my own. I shrieked out loud when my brain wires finally registered grandma from behind the glass, sullen face pressed up against the smudged surface.
              Grandma’s most vile newly acquired habit became shitting in places other than the bathroom or her old person diapers. This was quite a confusing subject when I tried to explain to friends or in-laws the reason why I was looking for other rentals. The first reaction was inevitably to understand “Grandma is shitting in the patio” as some kind of badly translated figure of speech. It generally took several repetitions and rephrases in order to get my point across that the meaning I intended was literal.
Not a day went by without Jere or I encountering either her deep black number 2’s in the patio, or actually catching her in the act—wrinkly buns pressed up against the brick wall in a strenuous squat, ready for take off.
“Señora!” we’d cry desperately, “There is a bathroom!!”
“Oh yes!” she’d reply, hurriedly pulling up her trousers.
“Where?” She would ask, as if the idea of a bathroom had just invented itself in her mind.
The aroma of mal-nourished, old woman feces is unmistakable. It is vastly different from the excrement of cat, dog, baby, or well-fed person—all familiar scents at this point in my life. And so, when that telltale odor reached my nostrils I was immediately on the look out. I had to locate its source so that I would not encounter it unwittingly later under my shoe or smudged up against my clothing. I also wanted to find it so I could see how long it settled into the architecture before someone from the family decided to do something —another piece of kindling in the fire of my burning frustration with home life.
The worst of these poohy days arrived when a whomp of stink bombarded me in the passageway along side the house into the patio. Several entrances and exits later, I remained stumped. Only later that day, I finally discovered the source of my misery. A hand smudge of dark feces ran along the brick, baking in the fiery sun. Doubling my desire to violently reintegrate the contents of my stomach into the outside world, a swarm of inky black cockroaches had decided to make grandma’s excrement dinner.
             Daily assaults on my ability to live a cleanly and poo-free existence were nothing compared to grandma’s war against the things that actually meant something to me, my plants. I had raised my little painstaking garden from seedlings. I had nurtured each the best I could, shielding them from the sun, bringing them inside when the rains or winds threatened their lives. I had rotated their pots, moistened the brick around them, and murmured to them in a mix of Spanish and English so they would feel loved and grow strong. Their spindly roots became anchors to that space. They told me that the sandy earth in which they grew was my home, for better or for worse.
                Perhaps unknowingly, or perhaps vindictively sensing my foolish attachment to beings so frail; Grandma unleashed a systematic attempt to eliminate each and every plant that made up my garden. She would crunch and crack their stems, tear them up from the roots and abandon them in a pile of debris, or rob the pot entirely and hide it so artfully, that by the time I found it few days later, the scorching sun had sizzled it up. In her fury she destroyed my basil, my marigolds, my rosemary, something called a coffee tree, my jade plant, another plant that resembles jade, and a whole host of nameless plants and cactuses I had collected from throughout Luján. By the beginning of December, I was left with nothing more than a collection of different sized garden pots filled with dirt, and the embittered memory of where my little plants had once been.
These reasons along with a fat list of others provoked us to give our notice and to begin searching for alternative living choices. This search is still in the process although we’ve long since left the nightmare of real family living.