Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Un poquitico en español

I watched "Cane" again last night. I am not like the networks, who pull the plug on disappointing shows after one or two airings. I, on the other hand, just watch them until I get bored.

I heard something interesting to me as they were speaking their difficult-for-me Spanish: a word ending I thought unique to Costa Rica. This is worth mentioning on this blog because one of my two main characters is from Costa Rica, and he liberally sprinkles his English with Costa Rican Spanish. ("Costa Rican" Spanish differs from other countries' Spanish the way British English differs from U.S. English. For example, the word "toalla" is the one taught in Spanish class to mean "towel." But in Costa Rica, you say "paño" for towel, because "toalla" means "maxi pad." Most of us found these out the hard way.)

Now, in Spanish, if you want to emphasize something you can put an ending on a word. An example: "Poco" means "little." If I want to say "Really little," I can say "muy poco," but almost no one says that. Instead they say, "Poquito." If I want to say really, REALLY little, I say "Poquitito." In Costa Rica, they change that -ito ending to -ico--e.g. "Poquitico," and because of that, they are known as Ticos. (Formally they are known as Costarricenses; really, they are called Ticos.) Henry, my 2nd narrator, is a Tico and he occasionally will say "poquitico," and I don't explain it in the book because I don't think that even Henry would take the time to mention this when he is telling the story of his life.

So back to "Cane" -- the (impossibly hot) new head of the family business, Jimmy Smits, was talking with a man who was trying to blackmail him. Jimmy said, "Our family does not pay blackmail. Ni un poquitico." Even with his very accurate consonant-eating accent, I caught "poquitico," which means the -ico ending is not unique to Costa Rica. Does this mean that Ticos are improperly claiming a title that isn't actually theirs? Are there other countries out there that also use -ico, thereby making this ending ho-hum and common? Is this little bit of specialness ... just a fraud? ay ay ay.

Ah me. I shouldn't be watching television anyway; I have three, count 'em, three projects I should work on instead. Only one of them has a due date attached, though (an indirect way of saying, "They're all on spec," or, more plainly, "I'm working for free") so it is very easy to flip on the television and/or just go to the gym and watch a Yankees game while on the elliptical machine, thinking, "I'll write tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday. Actually, this weekend is good." And then be surprised nothing is actually done.

But I am watching "Dirty Sexy Money" tonight. I'll keep my script in my lap while I watch and make it feel like I'm multitasking. Because self-delusion keeps us sane.


The Bloated Ewe said...

I feel weird posting a comment to this....but I found this blog post while looking for the origins of the "-ico". I'm Cuban american, and had grown up using phrases like "chiquitica" and "poquitico". In college, while taking Spanish classes, I found myself occasionally slipping up and using these phrases in the conversational spanish inside the classroom- something my teachers frowned upon. I assumed then assumed it was a very child-like kind of colloqialism that had no place in more formal settings. And now I find a whole country's identity is based on this suffix???

Kathryn Maughan said...

That is awesome! I'm glad to get a comment on this. I had to go back and reread the original post to remember exactly what I had written. "Cane" the series is long gone, obviously, but it sounds like they were being authentic to Cuban Spanish, using the ico ending. And if Cubans use the ico ending too, yes, I think calling Costa Ricans Ticos is maybe appropriating something that isn't entirely theirs! Interesante.