On language

Tonight as I was on my way to yoga, a rogue Mercedes almost plowed me down.

The car before it had pulled a similar maneuver, but since the light had just changed I had less time to react verbally. But I was in a crosswalk, and crossing with the flashing green little man.

Now, I am what could be considered an aggressive pedestrian, especially in Madrid, where drivers are terrible. But I’m aggressive because I do my best to be a responsible pedestrian (as responsible as someone who spent several of her formative years in New York City, jaywalking with the best of ’em). And tonight was no exception. I was crossing in a crosswalk with the light.

Already riled up by the first car’s stunt, I was boiling when the Mercedes swung around the corner at top speed.

What came out of my mouth?


After two years here, I am versed in the many variations on swear words in Spanish. But, what can I say? I seemingly had no control over this outburst. Some primitive part of me awoke, and that part of me speaks English.

I only wish the jerk had had his window down.


8 Responses to “On language”

  1. 1 Sarah Wednesday, 14 November, 2007 at 6:31 am

    I basically just read your whole blog today after doing a random search for the program you happened to do and your blog showed up. It’s a great blog and really makes me miss Madrid! (I studied there spring year before last) I’d really love to do that program, after finding out a friend of mine is doing it this year and im SO jealous! What are you doing now in Spain? I can’t wait to apply for next year *crosses fingers*

  2. 2 acmench Wednesday, 14 November, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Ha!!! Love it! I totally know what you mean. That primitive part of me also speaks English – I think maybe only the best, most sincere curses come out in your native language. They have more feeling that way. :)

  3. 3 Katie Thursday, 15 November, 2007 at 12:16 am

    thanks, sarah! i’m still teaching, but now in a language academy.

  4. 4 ann Saturday, 17 November, 2007 at 2:58 am

    i’m an auxiliar in granada and i dig this blog
    i’m from new orleans and i was super excited about restaurant review of the new orleans dude in madrid…will have to check it out for myself one of these days…

    in grammar school our history teacher taught us that in WWI they tested for foreign spies in the trenches by “accidentally” dropping heavy things on the suspected soldier’s toes – based on the premise that people, when surprised, will generally curse in their native language.

  5. 5 Katie Saturday, 17 November, 2007 at 10:50 am

    thanks, ann! when you’re in madrid, let me know!

    great story about the spies.

  6. 6 leftbanker Sunday, 18 November, 2007 at 11:00 am

    I curse like a pirate in English, something picked up during military service and a disease from which I have never fully recovered. I don’t swear in Spanish, not at all. I suppose that I am just too busy learning all of the other vocabulary necessary to function in Spain. I am also a very aggressive cyclist in traffic—the only way to be if you want to stay alive. Valencian drivers are pretty childish for the most part so it is a daily battle to avoid contact, even though I ride almost exclusively on the bike trails (you still have to cross streets). My swear word of choice is “Fucko” which, although it comes from an English root, has a Romance Language sound to it. The other words I tack on to this made-up profanity are always in English as well, such as, “Stop, fucko,” or something along those lines. This always seems to do the job of communicating my disgust in these knee-jerk situations. This invented word comes out of my mouth almost on its own. I suppose my linguistic reflexes aren’t quick enough to swear in Spanish. To their credit, the bad drivers here seem genuinely contrite after I curse them out for almost running me over.

  7. 7 lacarolinamadrid Monday, 19 November, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I say more power to you. Everyone knows what “fuck you” means….even if it is a command word and a object pronoun combined (quite difficult for some learning English). :-P

  8. 8 Bilingual Blogger Sunday, 27 January, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    jejeje. It’s funny how the knowledge gained from all those hours spent studying a second language fly right out the window whenever we get angry or upset. It’s difficult to outwit our basic hardwiring!

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