Sunday, July 1, 2012

a moment in the day: claro que si

Stephen is speaking Spanish to Nicholas.  Holding him close, up to his face and purring Spanish against his furry  neck.

"Claro," Stephen tells him.

"Claro que si," I say. And then, "What does claro que si mean?"

Not what does it mean but what does it literally translate to. Because I know que and I know si and I know what the phrase means, but I don't think I've ever looked up the literal translation of the phrase. When I was a kid, we had a live-in housekeeper named Carmen, and we picked up some Spanish from her. To reinforce this, Mom sent us to a Spanish class for a while. But when I got around to learning languages in school, I chose French since we were ancestrally French and my name was French and Noni and Coco used to speak French at the dinner table when they wanted to say things the grand kids couldn't understand, and sac bleu, how romantic would it be to speak French as a secret language.

Sadly, French pushed Spanish out of my brain and then jumped out behind it.

"Claro means clear," Stephen says. "So: clear - that - yes."

Which, when it comes down to it, does mean what I picked up as a meaning when Carmen used the phrase all the time when I was a kid. Strange to realize that I knew, really knew, what this expression meant, without having been told and without knowing the translation. Just from the context of her use.

Language is a remarkable thing.

2 comments:

  1. I'll bet you picked up alot from Carmen just by osmosis...I always get my french and Spanishg mixed up these days..sometimes it'll come out partly German-French-and Spanish..and to think that I actually used to dream in French when I was living in Brussels..

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  2. Claro que si! The literal translations of so many phrases we use all the time, while speaking another language, seem kind of off a touch when translated to English, odd idiomatically.. and yet they are just right while speaking that language.. even when we know how they directly translate.. you're right.. language is a remarkable thing!

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