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更新时间:2017/11/13 19:42:38 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

How Italians influenced a South American dialect

“Argentinian Spanish is sort of hard to understand,” said my sister as she plugged in a fan. It was hot and still in Buenos Aires and we were drinking lemonade on her balcony.

"阿根廷的西班牙语很难理解,"我的妹妹插着扇子说。当时,布宜诺斯艾利斯(Buenos Aires)的天气还很热,我们坐在她的阳台上喝着柠檬水。

I’d just flown into South America for the first time, and I hadn’t slept much on the plane. I was more concerned about my overpowering jet lag than mastering the local dialect. But fresh off a lengthy stay in Nicaragua, I spoke enough Spanish to get by… or so I thought.


Later that evening, my sister took me to meet her new boyfriend. Fermin, a native porteño (Buenos Aires local). He and his friends were charismatic and kind, but I could barely understand a word they said. They were speaking Spanish, but their vocabulary was filled with words I’d never heard before.


Throughout the evening, Fermin repeatedly referred to his friends as ‘los pibes’, meaning ‘the boys’ or ‘the kids’ in lunfardo, a form of popular slang in Buenos Aires. It’s one of approximately 6,000 words that make up the lunfardo lexicon. Over the course of that evening with Fermin and his pibes, I heard them use mango (rather than dinero) when discussing money and morfi (not comida) to talk about food.

整个晚上,费尔曼反复把他的朋友称为"los pibes",意思是"男孩们"或"孩子们",这是布宜诺斯艾利斯流行俚语“lunfardo”里,大约6000个单词中的一个。那天晚上,在费尔曼和他的朋友们谈话时,我听到他们说到钱时用"mongo"(而不是"dinero"),谈论食物时,用"morfi"(而不是comida)。

The name ‘lunfardo’ hints at the history behind the slang. In the late 19th Century, Argentinian police officers noticed that thieves and other small-time criminals were using a new range of words to communicate with each other. Assuming that the slang was a sort of criminal jargon, the law enforcement officials started making lists of the words and phrases they heard. They called the lexicon ‘lunfardo’, meaning ‘thief’ in Spanish.


But according to Oscar Conde, an Argentinian professor who’s written two books on the subject, the cops were wrong.

但按照阿根廷教授奥斯卡·康德(Oscar Conde)的说法,是警察们搞错了。他曾撰写了两本关于这个问题的著作。

“The birth of lunfardo is not related with criminality,” Conde writes, “but with European immigration to Argentina between 1880 and the beginning of World War I.” During those years, four million people, mostly Italians and Spaniards, arrived in Buenos Aires. The city became, as Conde puts it, “a real-life Babel”.


In Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th Century, Italian words were quickly adopted into everyday speech, sometimes with slight modifications. The Italian word femmina (woman), for instance, was shortened to mina; fiacco (laziness) became fiaca. Similarly, bacán (of or relating to the good life), biaba (hair dye or perfume) and laburar (to work) all have a basis in Italian.


José Gobello, 20th-Century Argentinian writer and founder of the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo, a non-profit institution dedicated to the study of colloquial speech in Argentina, suggested that pibe (Fermin’s nickname for his friends) comes from the Italian word pivello, meaning ‘youngster’ or ‘novice’, or perhaps from pive, a word in the Genoese dialect that means ‘apprentice’.

20世纪阿根廷作家和非营利学术机构"Portena del Lunfardo"创始人何塞·德贝罗(Jose Gobello)致力于研究阿根廷口语,他指出,"pibe(费尔曼对朋友的昵称)"来自意大利语"pivello",意为"年轻"或"新手",或者来自"pive"一词,后者在热那亚方言中意为"学徒"。

Spanish wordplay – particularly vesre, a form of language modification in which the last syllable of a word is moved to the start – also contributed to the development of lunfardo. The word ‘vesre’ itself is a play on the Spanish word revés, meaning reverse. Amigo (friend) became gomía, café (coffee) became feca and leche (milk) became chele.


Lunfardo spread through everyday conversation, and it wasn’t long before the slang started appearing in literature, journalism and even theatre. But it was the birth of the tango-canción (tango song) that cemented lunfardo’s role in Argentinian culture.


On 3 January 1917 in Buenos Aires’ Teatro Esmeralda, French-Argentinian singer-songwriter Carlos Gardel – who’d go on to become the greatest legend in the history of tango – performed the song Mi Noche Triste. Unlike most tango music, which was more freeform in composition, this had a defined beginning, middle and end. Like a pop song, Mi Noche Triste had widespread appeal and was often played on the radio. And the lyrics were filled with lunfardo.

1917年1月3日,在布宜诺斯艾利斯的Teatro Esmeralda,法裔阿根廷歌手兼作曲家卡洛斯·加德尔(Carlos Gardel)演唱了《Mi Noche Triste》。他后来成为探戈历史上最伟大的传奇人物。与大多数探戈音乐不同,这是一种更自由的组合,有一个明确的开始、中间段落和结尾。与流行歌曲一样,这首歌曲有广泛的吸引力,经常在电台播放。歌词里充斥着俚语"Lunfardo"。

Tango was the soundtrack of Buenos Aires, and lunfardo was at the heart of it. “There was a very productive association between the two,” Conde says. “Tango lyrics contributed to the diffusion of the language; in turn, lunfardo gave tango a tone and a style.”


They’re still inextricable today.


It's now been 10 years since I first set foot in Argentina to visit my sister. During the past decade, I’ve lived on and off in Buenos Aires, in and out of different jobs and relationships that have taken me back and forth between South America and my native US. I speak Spanish pretty well now, but porteño slang can still prove baffling. Lunfardo is so deeply ingrained in Argentinian culture that I sometimes don’t even know I’m hearing it – or speaking it. Part of language acquisition, after all, is mimicry.


“Qué quilombo,” I said to a Buenos Aires taxi driver one evening. We’d been stuck at the same traffic-clogged intersection for almost 10 minutes, and I was running late for my boyfriend Eduardo’s basketball game. The taxi driver laughed and asked me where I’d learned that expression. I was just repeating a phrase I’d heard other people say in similar situations. Later, I looked it up: originally referring to a brothel or a hideout for slaves, quilombo has been repurposed by lunfardo speakers to describe a mess or a disorganised situation.

一天晚上,我对布宜诺斯艾利斯的出租车司机说"Qué quilombo"。我们在同一个交通堵塞的十字路口被困了将近10分钟,我正在为参加我男友爱德华多的篮球比赛迟到而犯愁。出租车司机笑了,问我在哪里学到了这种说法。我只是在重复我听到过别人在类似情况下说的话。后来,我查了一下。这个短语最初指的是妓院或奴隶的藏身之处,而在"Lunfardo"俚语中"quilombo"被用来形容很混乱的意思。

After the game, Eduardo and I spent the evening in the tango club next door to the basketball court. There was no orchestra that night, just an antique sound system playing old Gardel classics while men and women in close embrace moved across the wooden dance floor. I’ve studied the dance and I’ve tried to understand the song lyrics: both are challenging.


“Don't worry, I don’t understand all the words either,” Eduardo said. “And I grew up listening to tango all the time with my dad.”


As another song began to play – Por Una Cabeza, a classic tango that Gardel wrote and recorded in 1935, the same year he died in a tragic plane crash – Eduardo’s phone beeped. He picked it up and laughed at the incoming text message.

又一首歌曲开始响起——Por Una Cabeza,这是加德尔在1935年创作并录制的经典探戈,同年,他死于一场悲剧性的空难。这时,爱德华多的手机响了。他拿起手机,对着收到的短信大笑起来。

“A que hora abre el cheboli?” (“What time does the club open?”) read the incoming message. His friends were apparently making plans for the weekend.

"A que hora abre el cheboli?"("俱乐部什么时候开放?")他读着到刚才收到的消息。他的朋友们显然在为周末定计划。

I suddenly understood what made him laugh. In the middle of our conversation about tango lyrics, porteño wordplay and the evolution of lunfardo, the text message exemplified all three. Cheboli is vesre of boliche, a Spanish word used in rural Argentina to refer to a small general store; it has been adapted in lunfardo to mean ‘tango club’.


It has been 100 years since Gardel invented the iconic tango song that helped weave lunfardo into everyday conversation. But in Buenos Aires, the playfulness in language and the joy in music are very much alive and well.