Photo: Spanish Language
Time Magazine made it official; Hispanics will pick the next President. Accordingly, even el muy loco, as David Letterman mocked Newt Gingrish, has engaged in hispandering: El sueño americano para todos (the American dream for everyone, except those damn illegal immigrants!) A Churchilian witticism best defines loco: a fanatic is a person who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
Hispandering, a newly coined term, combining pandering, to please, and Hispanic, etymological synonym for Spanish—from the Latin hispanus, relating to Hispania—, the common denominator for an ethnicity encompassing all races (if one can still use race without sounding moronic) and the socio-economic gamut. In other words, paraphrasing Orwell’s observation about political language, hispandering is a strategy designed to make lies sound truthful and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Hispanics are in for an avalanche of bilingual adjectives. Following the rhetorical principle of oppositions here are the top five qualifiers and their antonyms:
1. Inteligente, not to be confused with intellectuals, deemed not in touch with reality, snobs wanting every American to have a college education. Antonyms of Intelligent abound, for Spanish is rich when it comes to denigrating an opponent: Idiota, stupid. Imbécil, idiot. Tonto, not very smart, simpleton. Estúpido, imbecile—not fool or dummy. Tarugo, blockhead. Obtuso, weird, twisted.
2. Honorable, truthful, sincere, trustworthy, impeccable character and immaculate reputation. A political operative confided that his candidate insists on the introduction: Les presento al honorable... (And here is the Honorable…) The list of opposites is long, starting with mentiroso, liar. Sinvergüenza, shameless scoundrel. Calumniador, name-calling snake. Ladrón, thief. Rata, low-life. Inescrupuloso, capable of selling mother forun voto. And bandido, crook, as exemplified by President Nixon’s infamous farewell: No soy un bandido.
3. Macho, nothing tops it when campaigning for Commander-in-Chief. President Clinton explained the reasons by spelling out the Republican mantra: “You have to vote for us (Republicans) ‘cause my opponent is a slug, and they’re going to tax you into the poorhouse. On the way to the poorhouse, you’ll meet a terrorist on every street corner. And when you try to run away from that terrorist, you will trip over an illegal immigrant.” So, candidates point a finger to the imaginary enemy and proclaim: Soy el más macho, meaning, I am the one to defend the country against foreign enemies and deport all illegal immigrants (political correct Spanish for illegal immigrant is indocumentado.) The opposite of macho is débil, slug and weak. The colorful wimp has a long equivalent in mequetrefe.
4. Serio, thoughtful, conscientious, prudent, earnest and sober. Serio has also a negative nuance, as it denotes inability to make voters laugh. It used to be that running the country was more serious than brain surgery, now voters want entertaining candidates, cool public officials. The opposite of serio is payaso, clown and fool. A candidate who makes people laugh is chistoso, funny, as in telling a good joke, and divertido, fun.
5. Fiel, faithful to the spouse and ideology. Antonyms are infiel, hell-bound atheist and sinful adulterer, a really negative adjective—unless a law degree prepares the candidate to argue: no tuve sexo con esa mujer. Also antonym of faithful is camaleón, that wonderful reptile that changes colors to suit the occasion, or that candidate who, former senator Specter put it cinematographically, changes positions more often than a pornographic movie queen, the quintessential flip-flop.
Raul Guerrero is a novelist and essayist, author of the novel INSOLENCE and more recently La dudosa fuga de la cronista LIBERTINA. He directs SalonEspanol.com.