The Confusion Made Me Brain Go Round / La Confusión Me Hizo Dar Vueltas al Cerebro

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

I STARTED TODAY to relate what I thought was a funny story about language that evolved into what I thought was a fascinating discussion of local dialects. But my description of events and my explanation of dialectical differences became so convoluted that even I couldn’t understand my point. So, here’s the gist:

At Mesón Salvador the other night, Sergio asked in Spanish, “Why do people say ‘The Albondigas’ and not just ‘Albondigas’”? (Albondigas are meatballs.) I hadn’t considered it before, but English speakers tend to put the word “the” in front of what they select from a menu, while Spaniards don’t.

There! That wasn’t so difficult. Although this version is much less in-depth and academic than the actual conversation, which was clear as mud, and ventured into a variety of dialectical differences here in Spain and in the United States.

The glass curtain on our terrace has been in desperate need of cleaning. Our original window cleaner quit the business more than a year ago. Our housekeeper, Isabel, washed them last summer (2018) as a surprise to us when she was house-sitting while we visited The Kid Brother. But they haven’t been washed since. So, we finally did something about it (I hired the company that washes the community windows in our building). It took them an hour! I can see clearly now!


COMENCÉ HOY A relatar lo que pensé que era una historia divertida sobre el lenguaje que se convirtió en lo que pensé que era una discusión fascinante de dialectos locales. Pero mi descripción de los acontecimientos y mi explicación de las diferencias dialécticas se volvieron tan complicadas que ni siquiera yo podía entender mi punto. Entonces, aquí está la esencia:

La otra noche, en Mesón Salvador, Sergio preguntó en español: “¿Por qué la gente dice ‘The Albondigas’ y no solo ‘Albondigas’”? No lo había considerado antes, pero los angloparlantes tienden a poner la palabra “the” delante de lo que seleccionan de un menú, mientras que los españoles no.

¡Allí! Eso no fue tan difícil. Aunque esta versión es mucho menos profunda y académica que la conversación real, que fue clara como el barro, y se aventuró en una variedad de diferencias dialécticas aquí en España y en los Estados Unidos.

La cortina de vidrio en nuestra terraza ha necesitado desesperadamente limpieza. Nuestro limpiador de ventanas original dejó el negocio hace más de un año. Nuestra ama de llaves, Isabel, los lavó el verano pasado (2018) como una sorpresa para nosotros cuando estaba sentada mientras visitábamos a The Kid Brother. Pero no han sido lavados desde entonces. Entonces, finalmente hicimos algo al respecto (contraté a la empresa que lava las ventanas de la comunidad en nuestro edificio). ¡Les llevó una hora! ¡Puedo ver claramente ahora!

Tuesday morning with a window open at left and closed at right. The crag martins (birds) were shadows of their former selves.
El martes por la mañana con una ventana abierta a la izquierda y cerrada a la derecha. Los roqueros (pájaros) eran sombras de sus antiguos seres.
And Thursday morning with windows closed!
Y el jueves por la mañana con las ventanas cerradas.
Crag Martin under glass.
Roquero bajo cristal.


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

28 thoughts on “The Confusion Made Me Brain Go Round / La Confusión Me Hizo Dar Vueltas al Cerebro”

  1. those windows WERE dirty!
    but where are moose and dudo, why are they not on guard duty to protect you and SG from those birdies?

    1. Anne Marie,
      They were both sitting inside watching the birds from the warm living room!

    1. David,
      I honestly don’t know. THEY ask why Americans say “gotten,” among other things.

  2. Which makes me wonder if you have become so fluent in Spanish that you can offer both English and Spanish versions of your post…or do you use “Google Translate” …or have some handsome Spaniard check your vocabulary, grammar and spelling each day? I never became fluent in Italian and they speak so fast all the words seem to run together, not to mention the dialects!

    I envy you the ocean views through your crystal clear windows. (Alas, we have only mountains.)

    My hubby had a window washing plus business back in Connecticut, so he does our windows several times during the year…(especially the sliders which get dog nose-prints). I can do them as needed if we are going to have guests if he’s too busy with work.

    1. Frank,
      I translate on my own and use Google Translate for help. What’s nice is that I know enough now to realize when the translator has been NO help. Until we had the glass curtan, I easily kept up with cleaning the rest of the windows. They’re all accessible from the terrace and hall. Now the housekeeper does those because they’re all in essence now interior and easy to maintain. The glass curtain would take me at least 4 hours to complete and it would never be as good as a pro, like your hubby, would do in an hour!

  3. It’s lovely having clean windows! Having said that, I’ve never cleaned one in my life.

    1. Debra,
      I have usually been good about keeping windows clean wherever we’ve lived. But these are just way too much glass for me to stay interested.

  4. My cleaning of windows consists of a periodical scraping off of dried fly bodies left over from summer. You are so right about the The. I love Harry Belafonte, but now Johnny Nash is going to be my earworm of the day. Thanks ever so, Scoot!

    1. Deedles,
      Johnny Nash was in my head as I wrote. What a voice! I can’t stand looking through dirty windows. When I worked at Yale, I had huge windows that were filthy. Probably hadn’t been cleaned in 20 years. I risked the union’s ire by cleaning them myself one night. No one noticed!

      1. That’s what blinds are for, Scoot my man! I have cheap miniblinds that I can open and still not see the windows. Bathroom mirrors are a pain to keep clean, though and there’s no covering them 🙁 Window cleaning is like washing dishes. It’s not hard but who wants to do it? I certainly don’t!

      2. Deedles:
        I hate closing drapes, curtains, blinds… shutters. When I was in my late teens, my mother walked into my room when I had just gotten up and was shocked to see that I didn’t close the blinds at night. We lived on the 16th floor. The nearest building was across a broad avenue with shops on both sides (probably 2 blocks away). To see in, they’d need a telescope or binoculars. I told my mother if they were going to go to that much trouble, they deserved to see something. She was NOT happy. I’m always uncomfortable visiting friends and family who keep everything closed up. I don’t think The Kid Brother and his roommates have ever opened their drapes.

    1. Mistress Maddie,
      I know. It was so frustrating to continually look through bird crap and smoked glass!

  5. I’ve cleaned ONE side of my third-floor apartment windows, but I’m NOT going to clean the other side. Anyway, my view is of another apartment building, a swimming pool (now closed, of course) and a bit of parking lot, so I don’t have as much incentive as you do.

    1. Kirk,
      The rest of our windows and doors are cleaned every week. Dirty windows make me nuts, but I just couldn’t get motivated to do these completely. I did the front once. That took me an hour and a half. Never got to the side, which is a bit longer. Easy access, but an awful lot of glass. It took our housekeeper six hours!

  6. I think it’s because maybe people don’t know what Albondigas are–I make a dee-lish Albondigas soup–so they add the ‘the’ so as not to feel, well, dumb?

    And seeing is good, with that view!

    1. Bob:
      Nice theory, but they add “the” before everything they order. Interestingly, I still do that when i order in English. Just never thought about it until Sergio asked. Oh, the view. I still don’t take it for granted.

  7. Well a million dollar view. I can see clearly now…. Sing us that song. Indeed you are right both French and English speaking people have a tendency to add The or Le ou La in front of a foreign word as if it was important to think of the gender of the word. The trick is to think in the language you speak. Not easy when it is not your maternal language.

    1. larrymuffin:
      Everyone thinks the glass curtain is completely open. What an improvement. And the skies have been clear, too! i’m pleased that I have learned to think in Spanish, so automatically include or don’t inlude “the” without hesitation. I wish I had grown up like you, speaking more than one language. How many languages do you now have proficiency in?

  8. Mmmmm albondigas, my favorite Spanish food! Now that’s all I can bloody well think about

  9. As I learn Spanish I get confused by the work staff who are from Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela and none of them seem to say the same things or same grammar.

    1. Urspo:
      Dialects, accents, individual speaking styles… and limited literacy… can make it very difficult to understand people anywhere. Sergio also told me about a customer who wanted a cappa tee. He was perplexed but then it came to him… CUP OF…

  10. The dialectical differences within the U.S. fascinate me. I learn new meanings for words every place I go, along with varying sentence structures.


    1. Janie,
      Growing up in NYC and going to university 400 miles away in northwestern New York State, I was shocked at how much difference there was in pronunciation and word usage. SG, from South Dakota, and I at times speak like we’re from different countries. It IS fascinating.

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