Escribiring About the Mission

Rusty - September 30, 2005

Okay, last post about the mission, I promise. The last one made me think of another phenomenon of the mission: Spanglish (those who went to English-speaking missions, I’m sorry, you’ll probably feel left out of this thread). Whenever the gringos would get together we’d speak English to each other, but a different sort of English. You see, there are many words that communicate better and/or are easier to say in Spanish. Therefore we’d say sentences such as, “Dude, Elder Whalstrom totally got regañared (chewed out) by the prez yesterday.” or “The elders from Antigua and Chimaltenango have been juntarring (getting together) every p-day since July.” You continue this long after the mission. There are some words that I still think of in Spanish before I think of it in English (like “recuerdo” which means souvenier). I know there are others but can’t think of them now.

Did anyone else do this in any other mission, any language?

40 Comments »

  1. Okay, this was kind of a lame post. Sorry.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 12:54 am

  2. Franglais. My favorite was a Quebecois who was steeped in slang: “C’est comme like dude!”

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 30, 2005 @ 1:35 am

  3. I was told after my homecoming talk that I kept using the word “charla.” We used it so pervasively during the mission, I forgot that it wasn’t in English. We also used to call all our apartments “penches.”

    If the Spanish word has fewer syllables or is more succinct (like “juntado” instead of “living in sin”) it always won out over the English word.

    Comment by NFlanders — September 30, 2005 @ 1:39 am

  4. Oh yes. I still have a hard time figuring out how to say in English the meeting place for church (not “chapel,” but “office” sounds wrong) because we always called it the “biuro.” Some food words. I’m sure there are lots of other examples that just don’t come to mind. Some missionaries were worse than others, to the point where it was annoying. I blame it on SYL in the MTC ;)
    Oh, and that example is totally from my era and earlier because I heard that soon after I went home the mission president asked the missionaries and church members to start calling each meeting place a “kaplica” (“chapel”) whether it was the chapel in Warsaw or whether it was a rented space in other cities.

    Comment by Heather P. — September 30, 2005 @ 3:54 am

  5. I thought of something to add: travel words! Those were almost always in Polish for us. I think things that were a different experience were usually thought of in the new language. And I agree with NFlanders. Shorter wins.

    Comment by Heather P. — September 30, 2005 @ 4:01 am

  6. The one that made me laugh was “atornillared” which is Spanglish for “screwed”.

    Comment by danithew — September 30, 2005 @ 8:01 am

  7. My mission had a ton of these: “boche,” which meant being chewed out; “guapo,” which meant angry hothead; “tigre,” which meant missionary who had a liberated approach to the rules; “flecha,” which meant missionary who had a liberated approach to other people’s free agency about the rules; “serpiente,” which meant girls who hissed at us to get our attention so they could flirt; “guagua,” which is much more efficient and fun to say than minivan; and on and on. I still retain my favorite mission curse word, “diablo,” which is still my favorite curse word. (You can draw it out so much more effectively than most English curse words. Plus you don’t offend anyone, since it falls in that wonderful Spanish category of words that are curses but only really minor ones.)

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 30, 2005 @ 8:19 am

  8. Amen Stapley! I knew a Quebecoise who frequently said, “J’etais tout comme…” Didn’t even say “J’etais toute comme…”

    In French, there was the “gare.” We don’t even really have train stations in the US, so it was always “the gare.”

    Comment by Ben S. — September 30, 2005 @ 8:50 am

  9. Yep, even my kids speak Franglais (French/English) chez nous, decades after I served. People have always done this. Just look at modern English, a blend of old Anglo-Saxon Germanic and old French, thanks to the Normand invasion.

    Cussing in French is the best. To quote a great movie, “it’s like wiping your ass w/ silk.”.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 30, 2005 @ 9:00 am

  10. Our word for getting chewed out on the mission was planchar as in the El presidente me plancho bien gaucho. The americans would say the president planched me. I still use this and my wife has picked up on it as well. I would also use the verb meterse to talk about getting in to something in english. Instead of saying Tiene que metetse alli. I would say withe the americans You gotta met yourself in there. I still use today as well

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  11. Ooh, yes, meterse. That’s a great word with no good English equivalent.

    I still use “shuko” for filthy, grimy, nasty.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  12. The word we would use to say something sucks is “chaffa” As in “Esta tema de palabras en espanol esta bien chaffa.” I still use it today as well

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 11:50 am

  13. Rusty,

    I hope you realize that even speaking about “the mission” is a form of spanglish. Oddly enough my parents have even picked it up and now say “the mission” all the time.

    Comment by a random John — September 30, 2005 @ 12:15 pm

  14. Yes, chaffa is another great one. Brett, where did you serve?

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

  15. Cita (appointment) was had to stop using. So was saying things like like, how many members assisted (asistir)church today, instead of attend.
    Flecha was popular in ours as well, but was somehow shortened to just “fletch” and I don’t think they were talking about the Chevy Chase movie either.

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 30, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

  16. “Elder Jacob is sooooooo fletch” wasn’t said too much in Guatemala.

    Another one was dirección for address. I still ask what someones direction is.

    We used pláticas rather than charlas. Then of course we shortened it to plats.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

  17. Yep. You’ve got reason. (Apparently used in Franglish and Spanglish, according to my Guatemalan-serving brother.)

    Comment by Ben S. — September 30, 2005 @ 1:13 pm

  18. Not really Spanglish, but for about a year after my mission, if I was carrying something or ad anything in my hands, I would automatically point with my lips. My wife thought this was pretty funny.

    I didn’t exactly hear Elder Clifton and fletch in the same sentence either.

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 30, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  19. Tim,
    LOL!!

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

  20. Dude, like, I am totally down with what you are sayin’. I like, had the hardest time like getting back to speaking english after I got home from my rad mission experience in the 90′s. I think my english is much better now.

    SB
    California Riverside Mission

    Comment by SB — September 30, 2005 @ 2:42 pm

  21. Rusty-
    I served in the Mexico Tijuana Mission.
    Another phrase that I say in english, but picked up in Mexico it “me pic`o mis ojos.” He picked my eyes out. You say it whenever someone is ripping you off. You can also say “es un picadero de ojos” it’s an eye picker.

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

  22. I just thought of another one that I still use. “pesado” as in “El Elder McKay esta bien pesado” It’s like saying Elder McKay is the man. I still use it, and my wife has picked up on that one as well.

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  23. What I thought was hilarious was how Mexixans picked up on american words and would use them in their normal language. In all parts of the republic of Mexico I’m sure there are ex-missionaries that throw in “fetch” and “freaking” into normal spanish coversations.

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

  24. The Mexicans would say fart and crap to. Instead of saying “Tengo que ir al bano” We would say Tengo que crapiar. Or if you wanted to say I farted “Me eche un fart.” I still use echar in english. I’ll say “I eched a fart.” or “You got to ech it over there.”

    Comment by Brett — September 30, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  25. When I ask the missionaries about their monthly allowances, I have to stop myself from calling them “sigs” (short for asignaciones).

    I still say “charla” for discussion and “pench” for apartment, and can’t seem to stop.

    “Assist” church is the hardest to stop. I don’t think I ever will.

    For some strange reason, “ubicarse” is a word in Spanish I like that I can’t seem to translate into English too well.

    Aaron B

    Comment by Aaron Brown — September 30, 2005 @ 5:55 pm

  26. We had Danglish in East Germany (Deutsch + English) with precisely the same effect and usage among English speaking missionaries. Actually, even the German missionaries used this hybrid speech often when conversing with the English speaking missionaries.

    Comment by john fowles — September 30, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  27. The wife of the former mission president instructed the elders to regularly inhale salt water through the nose and spit it out through the mouth. I guess it was supposed to maintain sinus health. I only ever saw the missionaries from that era do it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Anyways, we called it snortaring. “Did you snortar today?” Or we would mispronounce it the way the Brazilians would: “did you esnortar?”

    When something is way too expensive the first thing that comes to my mind is “Que facado!” (“what a knifing!”). Or if something is a cheap piece of crap, it’s “Porcaria de Paraguay.” I stop myself from saying it because whether I say it in English or Portuguese I’ll sound like a retard. “This Paraguayan watch stopped working.”

    Comment by Brother Tom — September 30, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  28. And the missionaries have an appointment fall through I have to stop myslef from asking them if the investigators “gave them cake.”

    Comment by Brother Tom — September 30, 2005 @ 6:05 pm

  29. I still have a hard time not asking the missionaries if they need “espleets” for the week. (I had a zone leader who would facetiously write it that way on the board when noting our stats.)

    For whatever reason, I still say comer a lot, instead of eat. Or, harking back to my childhood in Europe, “Let’s mange” (pronounced like the English word).

    Comment by Justin H — September 30, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

  30. Interesting, Tijuana Brett (to distinguish you from Rusty’s brother). Argentines would probably be offended if you called David O. McKay pesado, granted of course that they knew who he was. “El es muy pesado” in Argentina means someone is unpleasant to be around, annoying.

    Comment by NFlanders — October 1, 2005 @ 12:37 am

  31. My brother Bret spells it with one “t”. No confusion.

    Pesado in Guat just means heavy.

    One thing I always found funny about Spanish is the inherent way you echar la culpa, the way you take the blame off yourself. For example, you don’t forget something, it’s forgotten to you (se me olvidó). You don’t dislike something, it displeases you (no me gusta). You don’t not get along with someone, it doesn’t get along with you (no me cae bien). You don’t lose something, it gets lost to you (se me perdió). Culminating into my favorite thing the Guats would say to us, “primero diós llego a la iglesia” (if God wills it I’ll go to church).

    Comment by Rusty — October 1, 2005 @ 1:43 am

  32. We had plenty of this in Japanese as well. It doesn’t hurt that an estimated 10-15% of Japanese is simply Japanized English to begin with. For example “to communicate” is “Kommyuniketo-suru” with ‘suru’ being the infintive “to do.”

    Along the same lines as the other comments, there were words that I only knew in Japanese (train station = eki to me. Always will). In the middle of my homecoming address I had to do the vocabulary interpolation trick because I literally had no idea what to call the Ward Mission Leader in English. He was always “dendou shuunin.”

    I also face those words that were so perfect in Japanese but have to one-word English equivalent. “Mottainai” means “too good to waste,” “kankeinai” is a one-word that means “it has no connection or importance to me,” etc.

    Verbs connected to a -masho suffix mean “let’s do ____.” I use “boogie-masho” (let’s boogie)at home all the time when I want to lightheartedly remind the family that we’re running behind.

    Last not not least, In Japanese you don’t “tell” somebody something, you “teach” somebody something. People look at me quite strangely when I ask them to teach me their phone number, address, etc.

    Comment by Chad Too — October 1, 2005 @ 5:05 am

  33. Mexicans would say “si Dios quiere” when we invited them to church. Basically this was a cop out. I remember this one time a guy didn’t have gas to take a shower, so he couldn’t come to church. His response was that “Al la mejor es un senal que Dios no quiere que vaya a tu iglesia.” Right…

    Comment by Brett — October 2, 2005 @ 10:37 am

  34. Brett,
    Same phrase in Guat. We’d always quickly respond that yes, God DOES want you to go to church. For some reason that didn’t convince them.

    We were teaching a guy that clearly wasn’t getting it. I asked him if God was standing in front of him and told him to change his religion would he do it. His resonse? I’ll have to ask my pastor. This was after he informed us that the way he got his priesthood was his pastor had three pieces of paper, two with “no” written on them and one with “yes”. He flipped over the one with “yes” so he has the priesthood. In that light our method of laying on of hands and worthiness is such a waste of effort.

    Comment by Rusty — October 2, 2005 @ 11:24 am

  35. Brett:

    But is your investigator’s reasoning any less valid than that used by many missionaries to convince people to come to church? That is, if the book makes you feel good, than it is from God. I realize for believers there is a big difference, but to people outside of the church there really isn’t so different.

    “Si Dios quiere” in the case you mention isn’t leaving the decision up to God–it’s a polite way to tell you no, I don’t want to go to your church. You’re lucky you weren’t thrown out on your ears if you followed it up by telling them that God wanted them to go to church.

    Comment by Mike in MIchigan — October 2, 2005 @ 11:44 am

  36. Mike,
    Give us a little credit, man. Living in Guat/Mexico for two years we have a pretty good idea what that phrase meant (and you’re right that it was a polite way of saying no). My response was a playful way to end the discussion, to which they usually laughed at because they realized what the saying is actually saying (something they most likely had not considered before). I didn’t actually expect him to reconsider.

    Comment by Rusty — October 2, 2005 @ 1:31 pm

  37. Fair enough Rusty. Unfortunately, over the years I’ve run into too many missionaries/former missionaries who didn’t get it. I forgot I’m dealing with a different crowd here, and I mean that in a good way ;)

    Comment by MIke in MI — October 2, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

  38. Mike,
    I never told the dude that God wanted him to go to church. I knew he meant that he had no interest in the chuch. But like Rusty, I would throw it out there playfully when people would say it.

    Comment by Brett — October 2, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

  39. My mission was in costa rica and shaking the spanish after that kind of immersion takes a while.

    Comment by Andy — October 2, 2005 @ 9:26 pm

  40. Nine years post-mish, and I still snap my hand to show excitement or to say “hurry up.”

    Comment by Kaimi — October 26, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

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