Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Bunged up

At the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 I was a sort of official, so they provided me with a car and a young student to drive it. Antonio spoke quite good English, and when he needed an English word which he didn't know he would simply anglicise the Spanish. This usually worked well, but once when we were having dinner together I sneezed, and with some concern he enquired: "Are you constipated?".

When we explained, he laughed as much as we had. It was an easy mistake to make: constipado means congested. There are both English and Spanish words deriving from the Latin constipare (to cram together) but for us the general sense is obsolete: nowadays we use our word only to describe a medical condition.

My six-year-old grand-daughter probably knows this; she is totally bilingual , although in Spanish she has a strong Andalusian accent. The Spanish way of life seems to suit her and she loves her school, particularly the flamenco lessons on Wednesday afternoons.

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