Spanglish Spoken Here

“What a beautiful book.”

My wife and I have been living in Argentina for years, her for 17 and me for 18. Over this time, we have picked up Spanish to the extent that we have incorporated a raft of Spanish words – and amalgamations – into our native English.

Take venced, for example.

I will open the fridge and say, “Uh oh, the milk has venced.”

Venced, of course, is our made-up word based on vencimiento, or Spanish for expiration, as in the expiry date or when you know that the milk is out of date. So you look at the packaging for the expiration date and you read “vto” or “venc” or something of the like and then the date. This triggers in your head the word vencimiento, which you cut short to “venc” and then add the “ed” and, presto, you’ve got “venced.”

Most of the Spanish infusion involves simple replacements, probably out of sheer laziness. You call for a doctor’s appointment and ask for a turno and then tell your wife, “We’ve got a turno on Monday at 3:30.”

Our three children, ages nine, seven and three, are growing up with this mix, speaking Spanish at school and with most of their friends and then English at home. They don’t say “venced.” Not yet. But they fluidly intermix both languages, often in the same phrase and using Spanish words just because. When you are ordering at a restaurant, you ask your kids, “You want a hamburger with fries?” And they say, “Yummy! Papas fritas!”

Another is delantal. It is the white lab-coat they wear over their clothes at school. The youngest has a blue-and-white checkered delantal.

In the rush to get to school, the eldest will say, “Anybody seen my delantal?”

She finds it and then the conversation continues:

Daughter: Now I can’t find my zappas!

Dad: Try the playroom.

My daughter dashes off and returns with her trainers (as in Mummy’s British English) or sneakers (as in Daddy’s American English) and another question: “Now I need my mochila. You seen it?”

A honk is then heard from the street and I say, “You’d better hurry up and find your backpack because the combi’s here.” My daughter rushes to her room and comes back saying, “I’ve got my mochila.” I open the front door and ask, “Have you got your cuadernos and lapicera?” She responds, “Yup.” And then as she runs across the sidewalk I yell to her, “And a snack?” She turns to me while climbing into the school bus and says, “Yeah, a couple packs of galletitas.” Then she waves goodbye.

My wife and I don’t blink at the intermixing of languages. We just accept it.

Of course, there are times when we gas ourselves in laughter.

The other day, the three-year-old was scratching her head furiously at the kitchen table and her elder sister laughed at her. The youngest scowled and blurted out, “Don’t laugh, I’ve got piojos, you caca!”

Piojos are head lice.

And caca? Well, I think that’s pretty well understood, or entendido.

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