A couple of days ago I invented a new word in my favorite fast-growing language, Spanglish. Spanglish happens when Spanish speaking people grab a word from English and make it our own. (Ingañol is when we anglicize something from Spanish.) Puerto Ricans, whose homeland has been invaded by a massive influx of U.S. commercialism, and half of whose population is now living in the United States, are world experts. Among my long-standing favorites are emiliar (v. to email) and its attached noun, el emilio,(the email); zafacón, meaning waste basket, which evolved from the U.S. military "safety can," and guiltripeo, a guilt trip. The other night I was with a group of women, moving fluidly between languages as we spoke about our lives, and someone smacked her chest and said "bring it on!" In that instant a new word was born: bringetona, a woman whose basic attitude toward the world is "bring it on!"
I'm a great believer in invented language, and come by it naturally. My father cites fictitious poets in his scientific articles, and had an invented scientist named Isidore Nabi nominated for American Men and Women of Science. (Nabi wrote regularly to scientific journals on such topics as the sociobiology of the sonnet, and publsihed editorials on behalf of Greypeace, an organization dedicated to preserving the corporate environment. Heremains active on my father's blog at http://richardlevins.com/ ) My mother kept a file of what she called "malaprops" by her bed, scrambled sayings that popped out of her mouth on a regular basis: "that's a fish of a different kettle," "it's water over the hill," "it takes two to waltz to a tango" and "you drive me up the garden wall!" In an earlier stage of my literary career, I impersonated my own non-existent booking agent, in order to negotiate better fees with colleges. I also specialize in creative origin stories for contemporary customs, through a process my brother and I call banyanization, after the banyan tree which drops new roots from existing branches.
All this fizzy ferment of invention is a creative form of resistance, a kind of guerrilla appropriation of language, authority, and history that is one of the native art forms of my people, joyously practiced at every opportunity by bringetonas like me.
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Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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