Thursday, July 5, 2012

The (language of) rain in Spain-- Fun with Spanish, 2

(This entry is the second in an occasional series on fun/interesting discoveries I've made while blundering my way through Castilian Spanish.)

The school year is over, and I'm taking advantage of a block of free time before my flight home to do some traveling through northern Spain. This area--which includes the provinces of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and Basque Country (Pais Vasco)-- is famous for its beautiful, wild coast; fantastic seafood; rich regional cultures; and spectacular, spectacularly green mountainous scenery.

Emphasis on the green and on the way it gets that way. Much like its Celtic and British cousins, northern Spain is impossibly green, thanks to copious amounts of rain.

It follows, then, that there is plenty of wordplay in the language when it comes to wet weather.

1) Pouring
As a language nerd, I always love to teach my students English idioms. I think idioms in general are pretty fascinating. One that has always been popular with my classes is "It's raining cats and dogs." I guess I can't blame them for enjoying it-- it's a pretty silly image.

The Spanish equivalent is "Está lloviendo a cántaros," which means literally, "It's raining vases" (the closest translation in this case would be, I guess, "It's raining buckets.")  In this case a cántaro is a large clay vase or pot, usually terra cotta and with two handles. In years past cántaros were used to collect drinking water, which makes the meaning of the phrase clear and gives it an optimistic tone ("Hooray, we'll have water to drink!") that's absent in any of our commentary about pets.

2) The silliest rain
Legend has it that the Inuit have 200 words for snow; it follows that the perpetually moist Asturians would have a number of words for rain. My favorite so far (which applies here in Asturias but which I have heard used in other parts of the country, as well) is mojabobos.

To understand this term, we need to split it into two parts. The first, moja, comes from the verb mojarse, which means "to get wet." The word bobo is a slang term that means something like "foolish person," "idiot," or (to reach for a term in yet another language) schlemiel.

Mojabobos is a fine rain, really a mist-- the sort that foolish people think doesn't call for an umbrella or a jacket. The way a friend described it to me, the bobo gets ready to go out to a bar, sees it's raining ever so slightly, and decides he can't feel the rain enough for it to merit any kind of protective gear. So he walks down the street, whistling or humming a tune... but by the time he reaches the bar, he has paid the mojabobos price and is completely soaked. Silly bobo, next time bring an umbrella.

1 comment:

Toni said...

I am amazed by the way you learn languages. CON-GRATS!!!