Bonus: Estamos texting todo el tiempo

(Or as Google Translate would put it: Nosotros estamos enviando mensajes de texto todo el tiempo.)

Our recent foray into the Baldo translation mysteries included an interesting subthread on whether the Spanish seemed to reflect any particular national-origin variety of the language (or since the setting is in the U.S. , there might be contemporary U.S.-regional varieties at play ) , or rather a textbook or generic Western Hemisphere compromise variety of the language. Also in question was “official, standard” language versus slang and colloquial.

Last week’s and this week’s strips provide a wealth of material bearing on those issues. The teen characters are doing a lot of texting, so we get to see the handling of such matters as: standard texting abbreviations; spontaneous abbreviations or “shorthand”; accidental typos, and bad autocorrect and autocomplete insertions; and intrusion of English terms instead of “official” Spanish. Thus for OMG they stick with OMG in the Spanish context, though I think elsewhere I’ve seen DM (for Dios mío not in this case Direct Message); and “texting” in both English and Spanish versions.

(Two wordless strips depict a deepening of the romantic jealousy crisis.)

(For anyone paying close attention to the dates, there were strips over the weekend that were not part of this series.)


  1. “Is Mario molesting you?” ! !

    Just kidding – I know that molestar just means to bother.

  2. In the Spanish version of the … wait, can I find that screen to have a look without losing this comment? … (Idea for the editors, would you feel like going back in and adding numbers or dates or something?) …

    OK.. I’m looking at the Spanish edition of the 6th pair, the one with three panels of Stella’s multiple texts and Baldo’s reactions, then a final panel of Stella getting his text response consisting of just a vomit emoji. Nice technique for depicting texting, I think, btw, with the recipient featured largest in the main area of the panel, and the sender just in a small circle next to their texts. The sender has their words representing their actions or thoughts, the recipient needs the pictorial to show their reactions.

    Language in the second panel. In Spanish, Estella texts No to envite [..] where the to is best explained as an accidental mistyping for the expected object pronoun te . Though I don’t have any info as to texting styles among contemporary Hispanic youth, there is no apparent advantage to substituting to for te in terms of either efficiency or wit.

    Now in the English we have I didn’t vite u […] . The vite for invite is probably best explained as either a spontaneous shortening by the texted; or possibly a shared habitual form of abbreviation in their circle. Theu for you is of course a near-universal short form (and quasi-rebus) known to even the geezers and noobs.

  3. Dana K says with the recipient featured largest in the main area of the panel, and the sender just in a small circle next to their texts. The sender has their words representing their actions or thoughts, the recipient needs the pictorial to show their reactions.

    Not disagreeing about the effect and usefulness of the technique. But the part about the floating heads can be simplified, as part of what is on the screens — the avatars are appearing next to the text they’ve sent. So that’s why a person has an invariable appearance wherever they show up as floating head. And why a person can be in the main area of the panel but also as a floating head — they are in the main panel as a participant, but also floating above as one of the text authors at that spot.

  4. France has the Academie Francaise which gets really mad at people who say or write “le weekend” or “le drugstore”. I guess Spain has nothing like that, so words that come in from English can stay without them inventing Spanish words.

  5. Mark, please note the phrasing mensajes de texto given at the top of the post, responding to the texting in the title (picked up from one of the strips).

  6. But yes, there is one.

    The Royal Spanish Academy (Spanish: Real Academia Española, generally abbreviated as RAE) is Spain’s official royal institution with a mission to ensure the stability of the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, and is affiliated with national language academies in 22 other hispanophone nations through the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language.[1] The RAE’s emblem is a fiery crucible, and its motto is Limpia, fija y da esplendor (“It purifies, fixes, and shines”).[2].

    The RAE dedicates itself to language planning by applying linguistic prescription aimed at promoting linguistic unity within and between various territories, to ensure a common standard. The proposed language guidelines are shown in a number of works.

    Were it not for the bit about affiliation with the 22 other national academies, I was going to say a Royal Academy in Spain has nothing to do with usage in, say, Mexico, let alone Texas. Though of course there is little impact on how people talk everyday anywhere, just on publications that have reason to want to follow rules.

  7. As for English, as rec.arts.sf.written denizen James. D Nicholl (a fellow of “questionable notability”) said:

    “We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

  8. There is definitely an inverse correlation with how “successful” a language is, and the existence of, and attention given to, an official source all things the language: German isn’t going anywhere fast, no colonies, no expansion, but thanks to the fractious history of unity of German nations, there are still like five actual nations that speak it, and so the official source of “correct” German exists, has authority, and is (mostly) listened to and respected. French once was a going language, it was the language of diplomacy and culture, yadda, yadda; it hasn’t been for decades, but they haven’t come to terms with it, so their academy still makes strident proclamations, that mostly get reported widely only to be ridiculed, not really adhered to — just how much does Quebec really fall in line with those proclamations, hmm? Spanish is widely spoken through-out parts of the world, and growing in influence as it permeates into the United States and other places; It has an academy for the language, apparently, but we needed someone to actually look it up for us to believe it, and we all doubt very much that it has much effect on much of the speaking habits of the wide diaspora of Spanish speakers (and I would raise the many stories of complete incompatibilities among Spanishes, were in one version’s virtuous “I love you” is another version’s lascivious “I want you carnally”, and something else about riding a bus being completely innocent in one, and totally rude in another, but I don’t speak Spanish). Then there’s English, which bucks so much in the face of any official standardization or reform that within just the newspaper industry of the US there are competing style guides, and the UK and the US are said to be separated by their common language, but English is currently one of the most successful languages out there.

    (I’d ask for experts on Arabic and Chinese to chime in.)

  9. When Robert and I (separately) learned Spanish in high school we were taught that the word for bus was “autobus”.

    Go decades into the future from high school through college and grad school and Robert was executor director of a combined mental health center/school for children with emotional problems. A number of the children were of Spanish speaking backgrounds. Some of the social workers on staff also spoke Spanish, including one woman who was from Spain. When she spoke with the families she used the term “ya ya” which he found out meant bus – confusing. He found out that yaya was from a certain country (forget which).

    It suddenly dawned on me – similar when something new comes along the various countries which speak the language do not get together and say “what are we going to call this?”, rather words arise in each country (especially pre- home computer/Internet). In the same way my BIL had a British to American dictionary given to him when he worked at Reuters, there are differences between the term for the same item based on which country or area one is from.

  10. There are many interesting stories about words in various languages. Everyone knows about “kangaroo” for instance. I was told by a person from Poland that the “pantograph” of a trolley car, i.e. the thing on top that stretches up and touches the wire to supply the electricity, is called a “wijhyster” (my spelling may not be correct) in Polish. Pronounced “we heist air.” The first trolley cars in Poland came from Germany and were installed by German workmen, and when asked what the thing on top was called, the workman said, “Oh, that, um, that’s the what’s-it-called (wie heist er).”

  11. I’ve squirreled away Yet Another Baldo post, waiting until it seems people might be in the mood for more, but also waiting for me to figure out how to finish writing it up so as to explain what I think I see in it, without completely spoiling the CIDU question and leaving room for people to advance their own ideas.

    However, for the moment I’ll say it has what may be a clear case of having been written in Spanish first then translated — that’s because there’s a joke element that works quite well in the Spanish version but is utterly baffling in the English; then when you see the English is trying to do an equivalent to what the Spanish one did, you can at least half-understand the English one. (I think there remain unsolvable questions though.) Anyway, here as a CIDU is the English.

  12. Well, “good advice” => “good device” is fine. I guess it’s supposed to be “thinking about” => “stinky goats” but that comes quite a while after the first so the conflation doesn’t seem right. But it’s the best I have.

    In comments at the time, many were surprised that Baldo is just 15, but as I pointed out he’s taking driving lessons so that’s about right.

  13. (Just seeing this a day late!)
    Yes, if we pop in the Spanish it becomes clear that the joke in that panel (besides the reveal that he has been talking to his phone and not to a person) is that the speech-to-text function has mis-transcribed something in his question (which we suppose is being fed to a search engine generally or maybe an advice app), and the answer uses the mistaken word, showing us what happened. The words involved were consejo (advice) in panel 2 becoming conejos (rabbits) in panel 4.

    That does lay the groundwork for supposing the same joke is being attempted in the English, and Brian makes the good point that it is getting done in “good advice” => “good device”. I don’t see anything in the English panel 2 that could result in the goats, though the rabbits in the Spanish error may bring in the whole idea of animals.

  14. (And of course the eventual moral-of-the-story punch line is that he sees he is better off going for advice to his dad than to the automated systems on the phone.)

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