Friday, March 30, 2007

the things people say

¡hola guapa! --- that is what people might say to you when you´re in spain. like many things, it´s not said gratuitously. well, to phrase it differently: it´s said less often than expletives. and contrary to what an outsider (i.e someone outside of spain) might think, this is not some form of common garden variety harassment either. friends might say it to one another when meeting up on the street, for instance. but i remember the first time someone had said it to me. i had moved to a new flat, and new neighbourhood. and lived in an apartment complex where there were four blocks overlooking the same small plaza. one morning as i exited my apartment block this little old lady of maybe 80-something hollered to me, at a volume which seemed entirely disproportionate to her physical size and frail appearance: "¡hola guapa!" (hello beautiful)
i smiled, and blushed, and said meekly "buenos días señora". that was the first time, but it also wasn´t the last. also, you will find that others who are sufficiently familiar with you, might also start to use this epithet. but, no. familiarity is not the thing. since you might be in a bar or cafeteria and the person serving might say "guapa, dime qué te ponga" or some such. from time to time friends write and start their mails in that way. and though i might resort to using this kind of salutation once in a while, it never feels right for me when doing so.

well, the reason i mention this is that today here in oxf, much to my surprise, this kind of thing happened. i had gone to a store to have some passport photos taken, and upon my return to collect the pics some 15 minutes later, as i entered the store the assistant (who was not british) said "hello beautiful." despite my experiences of this in spain, i was still rather surprised at this greeting here. but then i went to buy coffee at my usual place and there the guy was also on about "how beautiful you are". i told him he was just trying to ensure that i would buy my coffee from him for the duration of my dphil, while i chuckled and stood there feeling like that awkward teenager whose relative has just arrived at the annual family reunion, and he/she is pinching your cheeks as if you were still that toddler of years gone by...
speaking of "aye". there are few things as amusing as overhearing the average spanish-speaking toddler say "aye". they sound so world-weary that it sounds rather absurd. when you hear it you stop in your tracks and can´t help but laugh since even the old folks don´t say it in the same way. really peculiar.

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