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Thread: "En arroz y habichuelas"

  1. #1
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    Default "En arroz y habichuelas"

    I was doing my usual read of certain sections of El Nuevo Herald and I came across this interesting article on Puerto Rican vocabulary. Whenever an article like this is written about language the focus is very specific. As we all know vast diversity exists in the Spanish language however, generic vocabulary exists across all countries where Spanish is spoken. A common lexical ground per se. However, colloquialisms are what give each country its identity and distinguish it from other Spanish-speaking nations. Puerto Rico is no exception. This island has a rich linguistic history, which may come as a surprise to many but not to me or those who have linguistic knowledge. The indigenous name of the island Borinquen and the adjectival nationality Boricua are prime examples.

    Its location alone gives way to a linguistic patrimony comparable to the DR, Cuba, Colombia, and Panama just to name a few other Spanish-speaking nations that have a diverse "popular" vocabulary. Having indigenous and African influences in its lexical make up combined with grammatical patterns typical of Caribbean Spanish, some may find it difficult to understand Puerto Ricans especially those from the "campo" or rural regions. However, some colloquialisms are common across the Caribbean; some are specific to one or two countries.

    En arroz y habichuelas was released in December 2007 and it's a compilation of Puerto Rican vocabulary and expressions aka "el habla popular". IMO to compile a resource such as this requires knowledge of local vocabulary, knowledge of the local native culture, expressions and their correct meaning. Usually these types of references are compiled by native speakers of the land and make for good linguistic and cultural material. They are hard to find but easy to enjoy and bring to light the extended colloquial vocabulary of an island or country. Whether it's food, music, clothing etc. its vocabulary and expressions have historical and cultural significance. For example, En arroz y habichuelas according to the article means "vamos al grano".

    For language lovers these references make for good reading and serve to clarify doubts about the meaning of words or the significance of expressions that are not found in a generic Spanish dictionary. One must be able to distinguish between a generic Spanish word and colloquialism or a generic Spanish word and an americanismo (vocabulary specific to Latin American countries).

    Across the Spanish-speaking world there are many colloquialisms. To compare the usage and meaning to an English equivalent is not recommended as Spanish tends to be much more specific when selecting correct word usage and even more specific when the word in question is a colloquialism. It's best to learn the word and its definition in Spanish to ensure correct meaning and usage. There are examples provided in the link.

    I did a search on Amazon and the book is available. Therefore my copy is on the way. I know of other similar references such Diccionario cubano de habla popular y vulgar, Diccionario de colombianismos (there is brand new release available) and surely there are references specific to other countries. The interesting part is regardless how extensive your "colloquial" vocabulary may be these references reveal unknown vocabulary even among natives of the same land.

    This is an interesting branch of linguistic study. Not only does it broaden your lexical knowledge, however it opens doors to a broader cultural understanding via vocabulary as there is definite link between the two. The regional differences in Spanish spoken in different countries is not a coincidence. The first step to understanding the differences lies in the history of the vocabulary.

    Vocabulario bocricua en `En arroz y habichuelas' - 02/03/2008 - El Nuevo Herald


  2. #2
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    Default Follow up commentary- **long post**

    The book arrived in three days from the time of order and I had enjoyable time reading it over the past few days. I highly recommend this reference to anyone who is interested in el habla popular of any Latin country. This type of reference is unique and takes time to compile and read however; it broadens your knowledge about the variations that exists in the Spanish language and among speakers from each country.

    Features of the book:


    afronegrismo, indigenismo, anglicismo

    -to fully understand a language reference one must understand the linguistic terminology. When in doubt, look it up. It makes no sense to read without understanding what the terms mean.

    2/Origin of names of many cities and towns in PR-

    Cabo Rojo, Guayama, Carolina, San Juan, San Lorenzo etc.
    - the origin of the cities and towns are well detailed not to mention quite interesting.

    3/Grammar usage typical of "el habla popular" de Puerto Rico-
    ej. p'al xxx

    Definition- para- Indica dirección: se fue para casa; un tren para Cuenca.

    - IMO and that of others there is notable excess usage of pa' and p'al in many expressions typical of Spanish spoken Puerto Rico.

    4/Some unique vocabulary and common Puerto Rican expressions that you may have heard:

    i/ coger la monga- to catch a heavy cold. La monga is a puertorriqueñismo.
    -The book also gives many examples of expressions with 'coger' used in Puerto Rico. Coger is used in the Caribbean with many expressions in the sense of 'tomar' or 'agarrar' but not in some South American countries as it signifies 'el acto sexual'. You would not hear voy a coger el autobús in Argentina.

    ii/ el cachetero- persona que vive del dinero de otro
    iii/ un comelibro- estudioso
    iv/ el comivete (come y vete)- Establecimiento de comida típica, pero sin lujos ni comodidades, precisamente para que comas y te vayas.
    v/ un corricorre- un revolú
    vi/un cuchifrito= una fritura
    vii/ un chamaco/ una chamaca- un infante, un niño


    1/ A la hora de los mameyes o, de los tomates= A la hora de la verdad.

    - the more universal expression equivalent to this that I use is "a la hora del té" which means the same.

    2/ Frio pelú- bien frío

    3/ Meter un mocho- decir un embuste
    -this is new to me. I have never heard this expression.

    4/ Ser un palo- algo muy bueno o exitoso
    -also heard in the DR. It is used a lot in radio commentary about music.


    En arroz y habichuelas reveals many afronegrismos, indigenismos and puertorriqueñismos that are shared across the Caribbean specifically the DR and Cuba. Once again this evidences the historical linguistic drift (in the both directions east to west and west to east) and common lexical properties across the three islands. In my opinion, although Cuba is the most unique, it still shares a vast common vocabulary with the DR and PR. History tells the tale as to why Cuba has a more extensive afronegrismo vocabulary. However, the shared vocabulary and expressions among these three islands are to be noted.

    This book is also a symbol of Puerto Rican identity as it evidences vocabulary, expressions and to a certain extent the grammar of a speech community. It is distinct enough to distinguish it from Spanish spoken in other countries but not distinct enough to define it as anything but popular speech. Speech patterns, speech varieties and variations are a part of all languages. Spanish is not the exception but certainly unique because it’s the official language of at least twenty countries, spoken in many where Spanish speakers are immigrants and is also the second language of millions of people. These factors contribute to the broad diversity in Spanish manifested by its speakers.

    The key aspect to remember is:

    The rules of grammar apply to Spanish spoken everywhere however, the fact that they are not followed is the root of incorrect grammar in one region or country versus another and in some exceptional cases accepted as diversification that exists in the spoken language.


  3. #3
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    Just purchased it from Puerto Rico... it's out of stock already with Amazon !!!! Looks really interesting. I can't wait to get it.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: hot selling book among Puerto Ricans-


    I am glad to hear you are interested in the reference. I keep reiterating the importance of reading when it comes to languages regardless who the person is whether it's someone very knowledgeable or a beginner. All material is valuable once it's well researched and compiled. Specialized references even carry more importance since they focus on the specific aspects of language not presented in grammar textbooks. This reference is a good example.

    En arroz y habichuelas represents the preservation of culture via the documentation of language. Not only is it a good resource for those who are curious about vocabulary and expressions used in the Puerto Rican vernacular but imagine the current young generation twenty years from now when they start asking about the origin of certain words and expressions. Thanks to the author of the book, she has left a legacy for them to refer to and consult.

    I am actually going through the reference again with finer scrutiny and can definitely relate to the humoristic tone of the book as well which was the intent of the author. Many of my questions have been answered about some words I hear in songs, specifically PR salsa and merengue. Once again songs are a vivid expression of the way people speak and often tell a story about the day and the life of a group of people. This is not one of words I was curious about but a simple example is the word El jíbaro or el jibarito which is a typical word in the Puerto Rican vernacular whose equivalent is el guajiro in Cuba. Another example from my list is un chamaco/ una chamaca. I learned that word from Caña Brava many years ago back in the day when IMO, they were a really good PR merengue band.

    There is no end to learning when it comes to language. Learning to speak is separate from learning the finer aspects of the language. As well, the reference will be a good eye-opener for those who believe that PR Spanish is just full of anglicisms like "janguear", "el jangueo", "el building" etc. These words formed in the NYC PR community but the island is a whole different story. Just two weeks ago, I had discussion with a friend of mine, Dominican, and we start talking about the diversity in Spanish and one has to really be on his/her toes. We were comparing the different ways to say to park- aparcar, estacionar, cuadrar but parquear is an americanismo (used in LA). Then we started talking about the verb 'coger'. I said to him "cuidao con el verbo coger porque no significa lo mismo en todos los países" and then when I told him what the alternate meaning was he said "Eso no lo sabía. Gracias por decirme". The lesson is you can always learn something new in a language. Talking, exchanging ideas, reading references etc are the ways to keep your knowledge base active.

    Enjoy the book. Here is a brief article from the perspective of a Puerto Rican which explains why the book is a hot selling item.

    Libro explora el habla popular puertorriqueña*-*Clave Hispana



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