The last post, where I talk about whether or not walking more than kung fu (caminar mas que kung fu) is a potentially offensive expression, brought up issues of language and sensitivity. I am particularly attuned to language, and I like to think that I watch carefully how people treat each other, and try not to be a jerk in general terms, though I have been known to occasionally snap at people and later apologize. I’m not proud of that, it’s something I’m working on, etc.
But getting back to the issue of language and sensitivity, consider this video from Canal 13 news, where they interview the creator of Askme, a little mobile kiosk where you can get maps, and a service that has some self-guided walking tours and some paid (downloadable) audio tours.
And here’s the video in question, which we will be discussing. Please pay careful attention to the following:
What we have here is one journalist in the studio, and one in the field, making fun of how gringos talk. “Dohwnde estta lah Peeohhaira?” is supposed to stand in for Dónde está La Piojera?. (and there’s actually one funny portion here, where the news guy is driving his segway, and says, “look, no hands” and someone in the studio says, look out, or your next line could be “look, no teeth”).
But back to La Peeohhaira. I suppose this is funny. If you are eight. I know this is something I have railed against before, and it will never cease to bug me. As an adult, you should be beyond making fun of people’s accents on national TV. It’s the equivalent of tuning into NBC news and seeing someone do a Speedy Gonzalez imitation to repeat something Penelope Cruz said. (Yes, Speedy Gonzalez, a pretend Mexican mouse, himself an offensive caricature, and I choose Penelope Cruz because she is famous and a native Spanish speaker, not because I am concerned about her new baby who I’m sure is beautiful and has awesome eyebrows).
Eso no se hace (that is just not done). Except in Chile, sí, se hace (yes it is). I’m not necessarily complaining because it affects me personally, I know I have a slight accent in Spanish, and I’m (mostly) okay with that. But that’s the point about -isms, they don’t offend you because you’re part of the group, but because you’re part of the society, and as a society, we should just all sign up to join the “let’s not be jerks” club.
Except in Chile, making fun of the way gringos talk is not considered to be jerky. See exhibit A, video above. And by the way, the Ask Me people are cool, and you’ll notice that the owner didn’t participate in this tomjerkery. This is a situation in which my wiring says one thing and the society says something else. It puts me in a grey area of offendedness. Am I still allowed to be offended by something that was not meant to be offensive? I have told all of my friends that pretend gringo accent talking is not funny to me, and for the most part, they respect that.
I guess I just have to go make friends with the people at Canal 13. Won’t you join me in my one woman campaign to get people to stop making fun of (and imitating, which is worse) the gringo accent in Spanish? (and looks like we’re not alone, the combined search results from “make fun of my accent” and “making fun of my accent” were more than 100,000, and I’m sure bearshapedsphere can’t be more than ten of those).