Friday, April 7, 2017

San Viche Was Not A Saint, The Dangers Of Literal Translations

Reminds me of an article in the old La Herencia Magazine , a few years back they had a column there dealing with "Spanglish" and translated the old Spanish New Mexican saying "tu no saves que tantos trabajos he pasado" to "you don't know how many works I have passed". While literally I find nothing to disagree with the translation, it is way off the mark and way too funny.

My grand mother, who could speak no English, used to use the term "san viche" as an "epithet" or derogatory term, but in reality I think that was the extent of her knowledge of the real English (S.O.B.) term or what it really meant. But she was well aware that it was not a term designating a nice person or a saint.

There were so many ways to misunderstand and some of them were funny, there was always someone we knew who said something stupid because they could not "translate" and the process of learning English was difficult. I personally remember asking to "borrow the restroom" and some guy telling me that "sure you can borrow it, just make sure to bring it back." He thought it was funny and it took me months to figure it out why he did so.

Another friend of mine translated "esta caindo agua" to "it is falling water" when it was raining.

I remember a friend, Manuel Lucero, getting stopped in Pueblo, Colorado by the police and being asked for his drivers licence. He told the officer to "forget it" meaning that he had forgotten it. He was asked several times and he told them to "forget it" several times. It got him a trip to the station for some concocted offence. And in the early 1960's you did not want to get stopped by the police in Pueblo if you were a Mexican.

There were many and sometimes it caused me to remain quiet when I had something to say but was afraid I did not know how to say it.

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