Europe / Global
How to speak modern Spanish, and the British colony in the Balkans.
Pardon my Spanish
The most popular dictionary in Spain has just had a “lifting” to bring it up-to-date with the immense changes that have taken place in the country over the past decade. The new edition of the María Moliner, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the Spanish-speaking world over 41 years, now reflects how large-scale immigration, an economic boom, greater sexual freedom and rising regional tensions are as much a part of daily life as jamón and tortilla.
When the María Moliner first came out in 1966, the prudish founder, after whom the dictionary is named, refused to include many sexually-related words on the grounds that they “sounded bad”. Moliner’s influence was so great that nobody dared to change the contents, even after her death in 1981.
But 7,500 new words and definitions have been added to the 2007 edition. Joaquín Costa, whose team revised the new edition, says: “Mostly, the changes reflect a more bourgeois society.” Costa says that Spaniards are also more aware of political correctness so, although the word islamista only entered the language after terrorist attacks by radical Islamists, most say it also means “followers of Islam”.
Learn the lingo: 10 new Spanish words
Spanish term for squatter, popularised by a radical political group in Barcelona.
Takeover bid – reflecting how the ‘Second Spanish Armada’ of firms have taken over so many foreign rivals.
Member of outlawed Basque political party, Batasuna, allied to ETA.
What all Spanish homeowners dread – indicator used by banks to fix mortgage interest rates.
Slang term for cocaine. After Britons, Spaniards are Europe’s biggest users.
Since Spain legalised gay marriage last year, the dictionary no longer defines a married couple as a woman and a man.
07 Chop suey
With immigrants from Europe, China, Africa and Latin America now making 10 per cent of the population, new dishes enter common parlance.
Spain is a mecca for plastic surgery devotees; this is Spanglish for face-lifts.
The Basque word for president has entered popular use.
Before: ‘small sea vessel’; now: ‘fishing boat to transport illegal immigrants from Africa to the Canary Islands’.
My morning media menu
Italian comedian and blogger
Where do you go first for your news?
The first thing I do is turn on the computer and scan the headlines because a lot of the papers are unreadable. They cover gossip and silly things. That said, I never miss Internazionale, a weekly paper that translates and summarises foreign news.
Do you follow radio or TV news?
For radio, I listen to citizen call-in programmes on Radio Uno. The callers usually know more about the discussion subject than the journalists in the studio. Fortunately, we have the web. Blogging is a great way to stay informed as it’s not a one-way approach where you listen to the presenter on TV, who is like a waiter serving you. There’s an exchange of ideas.
Next Brit thing
The British trend for buying Bulgarian holiday homes has spawned unexpected offspring: Britons heading there to stay. Bulgaria has the cheapest housing in the EU – averaging €507 per sq m in cities. One notable British colony is in Veliko Turnovo, the scrappy but charming former capital, several hours’ drive from the ski resorts and Black Sea beaches popular with tourists.
Its expats are a mixed bag: middle-class pensioners, struggling young slackers and professionals who can work remotely from anywhere. “They are sick and tired of the UK and find it very fresh out here,” says Stephane Lambert, 42, who came from London in 1998 with a UN project and stayed. He owns a property company and estimates 100 Britons live full-time in town, while many more own houses in surrounding villages. Expat local businesses include architecture and design practices, furniture shops, four pubs and a monthly English-language paper, the Frontier Times.
Shared interests include the locals’ passion for gardening but, says Lambert: “In the villages, Bulgarians are living off their gardens. Brits just make them look pretty and sit in them to drink cups of tea.”