Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Little Ernest

To expand upon the gringa/cholo thing... something that’s difficult to get used to in Spanish speaking culture is the way that seemingly insulting nicknames are bandied about, without causing any offense whatsoever. For example, Tito calls his father ‘Viejo’ (Old) rather than ‘Papa’. Everyone has a nickname, and it is usually based on personal appearance or racial background – just the things we seem to most avoid talking about in modern English. Politically correct Spanish will never come to pass! Tito has introduced me to his friends: El Chino (the Chinese One), Gordo (Fat), El Negro (the Black One), and Maldita (Motherf**ker). Whilst I realise that they accept their nicknames without visible resentment, I nonetheless never know what to call these blokes to their face. Spanish nicknames are meant for general use by a much wider circle than English nicknames. Alot of people here don’t actually know each other’s real names. Nicknames really stick too, ‘Tito’ is so-called at 35 years of age due to his childhood handle of ‘Ernestito’ (little Ernest). The Ernest was (thankfully) dropped and only the dimunitive ‘Tito’ remains. All this seems somewhat shocking informality after my three years in Japan, where people are only addressed by their surnames plus the honorific ‘san’, unless they are family or intimate friends!

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