Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Valencià hasn't used boxed question marks since 1993

Going to the bank on Spain is a pain in the backside. The queues go on for ever. There aren't enough tellers whilst there are far too many bank workers shifting paper around on their desks and waiting to sell some dubious financial product. Lots are at breakfast too.

For a number of reasons, so tedious that even I would hesitate to record them, I've had to go to the bank at the beginning of each month for the past several months. Despite being in the largest bank in Spain there isn't a branch in Pinoso. I have the choice of being charged 6€ to process the payment locally or driving to nearby Monóvar, if 15 kms is near.

Queues in Spain are usually orderly but amorphous. Often the routine is that as you get to the people hanging around to be served you ask who was last there. You take your turn after them. The next person joining the queue after you asks the same question and your place in line is now secure. This system has multiple issues for non Spanish speakers.

The phrase to use is ¿Quien es el último? It's a phrase within my linguistic grasp though I'm usually lazy and simply ask ¿El último? These phrases have a semantic drawback in that Spanish has gender. The word último is masculine so there is a possible charge of sexism. To avoid this people sometimes choose to say ¿Quien es el último o la última? which adds in the feminine possibility even though she always seems to come second. It set me thinking about how difficult it must be to write a phrasebook and how such a simple question, and ones like it, have manifold forms (as they do in English.) I was nearly at the teller and ready to be quizzed about my identity even though I was paying money into my own account when a young woman came in to the bank. "L'últim?"- she asked. It's the same same question but in the local Valencià language.

Ah well, for those of you old enough to remember. Bouncy, bouncy. Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait till lunchtime. My hovercraft is full of eels.

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