Derechos, am I right(s)?

Spanish is a lan­guage I’ve stud­ied on and off through­out my life, but nev­er hard enough, it seems. Seeing a pam­phlet re­cent­ly, ti­tled Declaración de los dere­chos, made me feel that way. The ac­tu­al mean­ing (“de­c­la­ra­tion of rights”) was easy enough for me to fig­ure out, but I was sur­prised when I re­al­ized that the Spanish word for “rights” is dere­chos.

Whether or not you un­der­stand Spanish, you may be won­der­ing why I found this so strange.

Well, a word in Spanish I cer­tain­ly know is derecha (which means “right”… as in, the di­rec­tion that isn’t “left”) — it’s one of the first words any­one learns in Spanish. And de­spite that word and dere­chos hav­ing dif­fer­ent gen­ders, it can’t be a co­in­ci­dence that the two words are al­most the same in both English and Spanish.

What’s so weird about that? Why shouldn’t these English ho­mo­phones be sim­i­lar in Spanish?

I’d ex­plain it like this: I most­ly feel this way be­cause of how it works with an­oth­er pair of Spanish words — in English, the word free has dif­fer­ent mean­ings that each trans­late dif­fer­ent­ly. Most of the time we prob­a­bly think of it in the “cost­ing ze­ro dol­lars” sense… but there’s al­so the ar­guably higher-minded de­f­i­n­i­tion “ex­ist­ing with­out re­stric­tion.” In Spanish, they’re two very dif­fer­ent words, the for­mer be­ing gratis and the lat­ter be­ing li­bre.

In the English-speaking world, I see the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two “frees” most of­ten come up in the Free Software1 com­mu­ni­ty. When dis­cussing Free Software phi­los­o­phy, peo­ple will wax elo­quent about the dif­fer­ent mean­ings of free, us­ing phras­es like “free as in beer” and “free as in free­dom” to help con­trast the two. They’ll al­so oc­ca­sion­al­ly veer in­to ex­pla­na­tions of Spanish vo­cab­u­lary to high­light the dif­fer­ence, point­ing out that gratis and li­bre are more pre­cise ways to de­scribe two kinds of soft­ware, both of which are “free,” but in sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent sens­es of the word.

With my mind steeped in this soft­ware sa­lon cul­ture of the back-alley fo­rums of the Internet, I be­came so keen­ly aware of the ex­tra mean­ing words can pick up when trans­lat­ed in­to oth­er languages.

And that’s why I find it so hard to be­lieve that, en Español, “rights” are sim­ply dere­chos. The trans­la­tion should be some­thing more ab­stract… more li­bre-like. I wouldn’t have guessed that when trans­lat­ed, my rights be­come “not lefts.”

  1. You may al­so know this as “Open Source,” al­though there are folks who will tell you that they’re not the same thing. These folks have beards.

Can we just drop this?

If you’re not a rap­per pro­mot­ing your new al­bum — and es­pe­cial­ly if you’re a non-rapper who works in mar­ket­ing — can you do us a fa­vor and not use “drop” to mean “the date on which [my thing] is set to be released”?

I’m sor­ry you’ve cho­sen e-mail spam or what­ev­er the fuck you do for a liv­ing, but talk­ing about the day your new cam­paign or what­ev­er “drops” doesn’t make you sound hip or hard or whatever.

There is one ac­cept­able use out­side the rap game: are you a preg­nant woman dis­cussing the date your kid is due to be born? Then that’s… ac­tu­al­ly to­tal­ly cool.

“Lil’ shorty drops November 7th. Yeah.”
–Expectant mother


Oh, hey guys — I just in­vent­ed a new word.

tool­bogged /ˈtulˌbɒgged/
(v. in­tr; past par­tici­ple of toolbog)

To be­come so con­sumed by the process of re­search­ing and se­lect­ing gear (of­ten soft­ware) for a giv­en task that one nev­er ac­tu­al­ly com­pletes the task itself

I’ve been com­plete­ly tool­bogged try­ing to au­to­mate fix­ing the date and time on hun­dreds of RAW files from va­ca­tion last fall… that I nev­er even sort­ed the pics them­selves!1

  1. Based on a true sto­ry, sad­ly.

This is cool. Slash get off my lawn.

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore

Two weeks ago, one stu­dent brought up the word slash as an ex­am­ple of new slang, and it quick­ly be­came clear to me that many stu­dents are us­ing slash in ways un­fa­mil­iar to me.


6. I need to go home and write my es­say slash take a nap.


12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oat­meal raisin cook­ies at north quad and i miss you

via BoingBoing