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|The peatonal, or pedestrian shopping area in Córdoba, Argentina.|
I kept thinking about this later and I realised that being passionate and intense is a characteristic that all Argentineans share. We are passionate about politics, about football, about food, about our national heroes. But what about people from my home town -Córdoba- in particular? What are the things that make us stand out from the rest of our countrymen? How can a cordobés be recognised as such by other Argentineans? What are we like?
|A very friendly cordobés taking a moment to pose for the photographer. Photo: Claudia Gibson|
Funny is the first thing that comes to mind. From the moment we open our mouths to speak, we put a smile on our interlocutor's face, for we speak Spanish with a very particular accent. The melody has a slow cadence that comes from a lengthening of the syllable preceding the stressed one, so that (to give an example that non-Spanish speakers will understand) mi amigo (my friend) becomes miaaaaaaamigo.
Argentineans from other parts of the country try to imitate or even mock us, especially when telling jokes; what they probably don't know is that they don't always succeed in copying our accent. This is mainly because sounding cordobés takes more than just getting the phonetics and the intonation right: it takes a certain cordobés quality. The nature of this cordobés quality is rather complex and a well-kept secret which I am not at a liberty to disclose so publicly...
Well, maybe just a little, or there would be no point at all in writing this post, would it?
Being funny, then, does not just imply speaking in a particular way, enlongating the words in the right place or even using typical cordobés jargon (which we naturally have) but also acting and reacting in a funny way.
Cordobeses have a special ability to make quick, witty and funny remarks in every situation and circumstance of everyday life, whether it is a relaxed moment with friends, while standing in line at the bank or in the middle of a serious and solemn occasion; and the melody with which they make such responses generally makes the remark sound even funnier.
|Two cordobesas protest -and make fun at the same time- about the increase in the price of public transport in the city of Córdoba by wearing a bus token in a very creative way. Photo: Claudia Gibson.|
He retired from the navy still young and returned to the Córdoba of his childhood to stay. He has been living now in the same house for the past 29 years and he is very friendly to all of his neighbours and they all seem to like him, too.
He likes talking a lot, so that every morning when he goes out for groceries it will take him at least three hours to be back home, simply because on the way to the supermarket and back, he stops at least a dozen times to talk to the neighbours... usually people he never bothers to mention by their real names to my mum or me when he reports what news he heard from señor R. or how señora M. is doing. As a true cordobés, he is good at making up funny names for every person he knows.
|My dad, drinking mate by the river in Entre Ríos, Argentinia.|
My mum, on the other hand, thinks that this habit of his is quite annoying, since she claims to never know who he is really talking about. Surely is not that difficult to call people by their actual names? Why does señor G. have to be Mr. Fridge-door Egg, or señor S., Mr. Neat Hen?
Well, señor G. seems to spend quite a large portion of the day standing at the door (just where you normally have a place for eggs in the fridge) of his house checking out what is going on in the neighbourhood; he is like the watchman on the street, if you know what I mean.
Then there is Mr. Neat Hen, a man who seems to have a habit that does not provoke the slightest blush on his part when he, (and I can't believe I am telling you this here) "arranges his eggs like a very neat hen would, while he's talking to you," my dad explained the first time he came up with the name. And there is also Mr. Badly-hidden Soldier, who is totally bald, what apparently makes my dad (who was in the military for 30+ years) think of a soldier whose "helmet" you can see, thus, he is unsuccessfully hidden behind the barricades or he has not camouflaged his helmet properly with leaves, like soldiers normally do.
|Me with my mum and dad in Argentina.|
They all seem happy to see me again, and they are eager to know if I have had a good flight, how long I will be staying, if I am ok and things like that... I like engaging in small talk with my parents' neighbours -everyone is so friendly and genuinely interested; but I always feel panic seething in my head while I desperately scan my memory to remember the person's real name. After all, despite being a cordobesa myself, it would not be very polite to greet señor S. with, "Heeeeey, Mr. Neat Hen, long time no see, how's the family doing?", while I try not to notice that he is actually, being neat again... And just for the record, in Argentina people normally kiss when they meet, for example, on the street - never shake hands!