Voseo: Another form for "Tú"

Pedro:¿Tú querías conocer a Chocolate y alguien te lo impidió?
Julieta:¿Y cómo sabés que se llama Chocolate?
[Captions 7-8, Provócame > Pilot > Part 8]

As in English, French, and no doubt countless other languages, small differences arise when we move from one region to another. Native Spanish speakers navigate through these differences with ease; non-natives can learn to do so as well. Did you catch in the interview with Enrique Iglesias (in "Music Biz Interviews") when the Argentine interviewer told Enrique how she used to hide her student cheat sheets con la pollera and Enrique immediately comes back with ¿ah, con la falda, no? She called her skirt pollera and Enrique knew it as falda. This had little bearing on their overall ability to communicate.

We see the same thing happening in this exchange between Pedro and Julieta. Pedro, who is played by the Puerto Rican pop star Chayanne, addresses Julieta throughout the show using the form with which all of us are quite familiar (no pun intended) -- ¿Tú querías conocer a Chocolate y alguien te lo impidió? ("You wanted to meet Chocolate and someone stopped you?"). Julieta also uses an informal singular form of "you" but, as the actress is Argentine, she uses the voseo or vos form, responding ¿Y cómo sabés que se llama Chocolate? ("And how do you know his name is Chocolate?"). The only difference in this case is the accent on the "e" (sabes, vos sabés).

With the notable exception of ser (vos sos, eres), and stem changing verbs (vos venís, vienes), the difference in conjugation between vos and in the present often involves only an accent (comes, vos comés). For some tenses there is no difference at all. The only reason we know Pedro intended the tú form in this particular phrase is because he says the pronoun tú explicitly, as the conjugation would have been the same for vos (querías, vos querías).

The most important thing to take away from this is that neither Julieta nor Pedro is impeded in the least by these slight differences in speaking styles. Both have accustomed themselves to hearing small regional differences. Through exposure to speakers from thoughout the habla hispana; we can easily do the same.

A Yabla Spanish viewer wrote to us last week about some accents where he didn't expect to find any. In Disputas, La Extraña Dama, part 4 he noticed the accented "a" on pará when the pibe commands Pará, pará? ("stop, stop.") in Caption 5. The same viewer also wondered about caption 12 when the mina (Soledad) says pedíle y vení a verme mañana ("ask him and come to see me tomorrow"). These examples highlight voseo embodiments of commands (i.e. imperative tense) -- had Sole been inclined to use she would have said pídele y ven a verme mañana.

No Sos Vos Soy Yo (It's not you, it's me)

(Romantic Comedy, 2004)

 

Short and sweet explanations of vos:
http://www.autonomista.org/tips.htm#voseo

Most common verbs with vos:
www2.bc.edu/~burka/voseo2.html

The voseo in depth, including its presence outside of Argentina/Uruguay/Paraguay:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voseo
 

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Estar por: About to

Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre
[Caption 17, Provócame > Pilot > 7]

When Patricia says to Ignacio, Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre she is saying, "Your daughter is about to get married to a good man." Estar por hacer algo can be interpreted as "to be about to do something." Note that the reflexive pronoun se in Partricia's phrase belongs to casar, not estar; she could have just as well have said Tu hija está por casarse.

Está por llover.
"It's about to rain."

 

Está por llegar.
"He/She's about to arrive."

 

Estábamos por comer.
"We were about to eat."

Provócame is an Argentine program. In some Spanish speaking areas (not Argentina) estar por + infinitive can indicate an inclination to do something, or to be in the mood to do something. Likewise, in some (other) regions, estar para + infinitive is the more common way to indicate that an action will soon take place.

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Va a haber: Related forms of "Hay"

Pero cómo no va a haber...
[caption 20, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > Part 5]

Most of us catch on quickly that hay means "there is/are" but are less likely to pick up on related forms such as va a haber, which by itself means "there is going to be." But when Amelia suggests to Santiago Ritchie that he can get what he wants si hay dinero suficiente... ("if there is enough money") and he replies Pero cómo no va a haber, the best translation is "Of course there is" (not "Of course there's going to be"). Santiago instinctively uses va a haber instead of hay after cómo no because pero cómo no hay is likely to be misinterpreted as "since there isn't any (money)." Because of the consecutive and adjacent "ah" sounds, non-natives often find va a haber slightly awkward to say and native speakers themselves often barely pronounce the middle a, or don't pronounce it at all.

Here is a similar example:

Novia: ¿Me quieres?
Novio: ¡Cómo no te voy a querer!

"Girlfriend: Do you love me?
Boyfriend: Of course I love you!"

If the boyfriend had followed cómo no with te quiero, his girlfriend might have understood it to mean "since i don't love you."

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Ando sin plata: Broke, but not necessarily walking

Ando sin plata...
[caption 8, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > Part 4]

If you recall back to Part 1 of La Extraña Dama, Nacha Guevara (Latin America's answer to Cher) asks in Caption 19 ¿En qué anda ahora ella? We might be tempted to translate this as :In what does she walk now?" but clearly that won't cut it. Checking any dictionary, we find that andar has more meanings than just "to walk." For example, you are no doubt familar with ¿Cómo andas? (How's it going?). The question Melina wants to convey is What is she up to now?

This week andar pops up again when our young protagonist states Ando sin plata. He means not so much "I walk without money," but rather, "I've got no money."

Speaking of Nacha, imagine our surprise when we recently noticed her -the distinctive voice, face, and, well, just about everything else- before us en bolas, which is to say totalmente desnuda, playing Mrs. Robinson in El Graduado. Our lovely theater companion, who somewhere along the line lost the wild rebellious streak we once knew her for, was shocked and outraged beyond her tender years by the wanton display of flesh (this despite Ms. Guevera's seemingly supernatural ability to cut a statuesque nude that would do proud any 36-year-old, which is the age Anne Bancroft was when she played the same role in 1967, never mind a 63-year-old, which is what Nacha is today).

The dictionary states that en bolas is itself considered vulgar by some. We don't remember where we first came across the phrase, but for some reason it stuck with us, as colorful phrases often do. Could it be because certain speech operates on a whole other neurological plane that quite literally bridges logic and emotion?

While this week's Disputas video does not offer an absence of apparel, it is rife with some fairly salty language. We don't think it would make a sailor blush, but we've got the viewer discretion advised light on as fair warning to anyone who might find the dialog unsettling.

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Como si fuese: Learning to use the subjunctive

No hables como si fuese una persona
[Caption 17, Provócame > Pilot > 5]

If you're a native English speaker, you're likely to translate the phrase above as "Don't speak as if he were a person." Without much thinking about it, most native English speakers choose the subjuntive "were," and not the indicative "was." Ana, similarly, instinctively uses fuese (the subjunctive form) and not era (the indicative) when she tells Mariano "Don't speak as if he were a person". (She is referring to a horse that goes by the name Chocolate.) The subjunctive, as most of us have heard but often fail to fully grasp, is used to express doubt or uncertainty, or to describe situations that are unlikely. Since it is quite "unlikely" that the horse in question is a person, and Ana, sin duda, "doubts" that he is one, she goes with the subjunctive, fuese.

This were/was distinction is one of the few and dwindling instances whereby English speakers retain a subjunctive form (were) that differs from the indicative (was). Other than "to be," most English verbs have melded both the indicative past and the subjunctive past into a single "universal" past tense that encompasses both. For this reason it's often said, somewhat erroneously, that subjunctive tenses "don't exist" anymore in English, and is why English speakers find Spanish's distinct subjunctive tenses difficult to acquire. The more we, as learners, immerse ourselves in authentic spoken Spanish, the faster we too can begin to acquire a native-like "instinct" for the subjunctive and its use.

If you want to bend your brain around the topic further, here are some sites where you can do so:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive
http://www.lingolex.com/swom/wom-subj.htm

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Sacarse: To get a grade and other uses

yo me saqué un nueve
[Caption 16, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 3]

You'll note that sacarse una nota is a common expression meaning "getting a grade" in school. Hence in part 3 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, we hear Gloria's son proclaim yo me saqué un nueve, "I got a nine." A few other interesting uses of sacarse are:

Sacarse un premio.
"To win a prize."

Sacarse un peso de encima.
"To get rid of a burden."

Sacarse la garra.
"To taunt/insult, To "rag on" someone." [Mexico]

Sacarse la careta.
Literally: "To rid yourself of the mask; to stop pretending, to be yourself."


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Al + Infinitive

nos confundimos al hablar sin escuchar
[Caption 25, La Gusana Ciega > Giroscopio]

In Giroscopio, La Gusana Ciega frontman Daniel Gutiérrez sings nos confundimos al hablar sin escuchar, which we have translated as "we confuse ourselves by speaking without listening." This brings our attention to the use of al + infinitive. Here al is not the contraction of a + el but rather an indicator of action in progress. The English equivalent is often created by using the preposition "by", "when", or "upon" + the "ing" form of the verb.

Al + infinitive can alternately be translated to English using "when + simple present". For example, in this case, we could have just as well translated al hablar as "when we speak," which would give us: "we confuse ourselves when we speak without listening."

Some other examples of (al+infinitive):

Nos equivocamos al actuar sin pensar.
"We make mistakes by acting without thinking."

Nos ensuciamos al jugar.
"We get dirty when we play."

Te lastimas al correr sin estirarte.
"You hurt yourself by running without stretching."

Se lastiman al pelear.
"They hurt themselves when they fight."

Me mojo al lavar.
"I get wet when I wash."

Se lastiman al jugar sin zapatos.
"They hurt themselves by playing without shoes."

Most native English speakers would find the phrase simpler to follow if Daniel had avoided the al + infinitive construction and instead sung Nos confundimos cuando hablamos sin escuchar or Nos confundimos hablando sin eschuchar, both more parallel to typical English construction. Each of these possibilities is grammatically correct, but they convey a slightly different meaning than that which is attained by the lyric's use of al hablar. Both hablando (speaking) and cuando hablamos (when we speak), would convey the sense that He is referring to some specific instance or instances of "talking without listening," whereas the use of al hablar makes the overall statement sound more like a truism, a principle of life, the type of thing you might read at the end of a fable or as the moral of the story.

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Carmín: A color and a lipstick

y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín
[Caption 32, Disputas>La Extraña Dama>2]

You'll note that Perales also sings "Y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín". In this case carmín refers to lipstick, so the phrase translates as "And you have painted a lipstick smile". Carmín can also refer to the color crimson (aka carmine), and sometimes to a type of wild rose. Lipstick, aside from carmín de labios, is also known as lápiz de labios. Bear it in mind next time you find some on the collar, yours or otherwise.

(Did you know that collar, in Spanish, is the same word as for neck: cuello?)

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