Thursday, 12 November 2009

Living In A Bilingual World (The One About the Robin Hood of Linguistics)

I have an announcement to make, chicos and chicas: linguistics has grown dreadlocks. And it has adopted anarchy as its preferred method of doing politics.

If the idea of defenders of language sometimes brings an image of a bespectacled, middle-age male scholar wearing a well-worn tweed jacket with leather elbows and a tuft of grey hair decorating his body's attic, then kiss that vision goodbye because the revolution, baby, is here and is happening right now.

Pablo Zulaica is a twenty-seven year old Spaniard from Vitoria, the Basque Country. Fed up with what he, rightly, considered to be beyond-the-pale mistakes on billboards and posters, he armed himself with a bag of portable, adhesive accents and started correcting those advertisements with typos on them.


Although Pablo's actions have been mainly limited to Mexico, where he has resided for the last two years, his enterprise caught the eye of other like-minded folk who could not take the spelling gaffes that polluted our cities anymore. And that's how nowadays from Argentina to New York there are human Tipp-Exes marauding the streets looking for those hideous signs that transgress the boundaries of decent linguistics in order to amend them.

Zulaica has confessed that his is not a political agenda. His aim is to change attitudes to spelling in outdoor advertising not to antagonise people. He wants both businesses and politicians to be more careful with language and to use it properly. Not surprisingly he is the offspring of two journalists and as a young child was always interested in the intricate world of letters and accents.

It was hightime that linguistics found its own Robin Hood and Pablo Zulaica is our principled (totally legal) outlaw. And if you live in London and begin to see grocers' signs with the correct apostrophes on them, please, don't turn me in. It's all in defense of language, guv.

Copyright 2009

Next Post 'Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music', to be published on Sunday 15th November at 10am (GMT)

19 comments:

Shaista said...

This is completely brilliant :) As an English student and teacher I applaud him, but as an artist, I am always thrilled by the ingenuity of the creative impulse. I particularly love his smile - a grin - he is clearly relishing his role of Robin Hood of the Billboard faux pas...

Ida Nielsen said...

Oh my, this is just genius!! What a fantastic mission ;-)

Deborah said...

Fabulous! I shall place my order for adhesive apostrophes in both white and black (for cover-up) forthwith.

Elizabeth said...

I love this. I'm as persnickety as you can get regarding grammar and spelling -- and was amused and intrigued by your prime minister's latest gaffe, although it was about a bit more than linguistics, I think!

Dave King said...

I am whole-heartedly behind Pablo. What a brilliant idea. Superb!

Judith Mercado said...

Its great news. I hope it's impact is huge.

Nevine said...

Now that's the kind of passion for language that I can appreciate! I do have to admit that I used to be put off by the "typos" I used to see on billboards and other public places, but at a certain point I got to thinking people are just too busy chasing their heads to bother with it all. I instead started to see the humor behind it, at least for myself, and to just giggle. I figure as long as I don't slip into the bad habit, everyone else that wants to have their go at it can just go for it. But I do applaud Pablo on his efforts. I just hope he doesn't get an angry mob of people chasing him for destroying their "originality".

Nevine

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for your wonderful comments. I'm happy to report that I look more like Pablo than the bespectacled, middle-aged scholar with the tweed jacket. In fact, whenever I raise my voice against those terrible crimes that are committed on behalf of modernity, people look at me in disbelief that I sound and come across all Anne Widdecombe. But, I have to admit that I find some typos totally repellent and tasteless.

Thanks for your feedback.

Greetings from London.

Renee said...

I love that he is doing that Cuban.

When I see signs that are just wrong, I always think they do it on purpose. To try to sound 'who knows'?

Oh I don't think the picture is the neverending story but it sure looks like it must have come from there.

Love Renee xoxox

Lyn said...

Right here in NYC most of the signs going up say"For Rent", posted on recently closed stores. The only way to change that is to improve the economy! No spelling challenge, no grammar challenge..not too much work for Pablo...survival challenge!

Catherine said...

Quite right too - there used to be someone in London who had a similar correction mission a number of years back - can't remember the details but he was particularly offended by poor spelling on greengrocer signs - I guess these shops have all but disappeared now...anyway have seen no activity of this as yet in DF but will look out for it. Greetings from Mexico - am just off to the beach!!

A Cuban In London said...

I have just been contacted by Pablo, who happened to read my post and sent me a message to my e-mail address. I feel humbled and proud at the same time. His message read (in Spanish)

Muy buenas, amigo:
No podía creer ser el protagonista de la gran crónica que usted ha hecho del movimiento Acentos perdidos. Me siento muy honrado por el punto de vista diferente y fresco que ha dado a la nota. Además, veo que su blog es muy visitado.

Independientemente de lo anterior, y sin ser lo siguiente el objetivo contral de este correo de agradecimiento, le quería pedir un pequeño favor, si no le causa molestia. Sería facilitar el enlace a http://www.acentosperdidos.blogspot.com/ en algún punto de la nota, alguna palabra vinculada u otra forma, para así lograr que más gente pueda involucrarse en el proyecto, más allá de difundirlo. Ya sabe, no es lo mismo hacer clic que teclear una dirección larga.

Igualmente, le comento que pasaré las navidades en su maravillosa isla con mi bicicleta. Alcanzaré Santiago -en tren, espero-, iré a Baracoa a buscar las últimas pistas de taínos, siboneys o guanahatebeys (de los últimos acabo de tener noticia) y de allí me daré un par de semanas para alcanzar La Habana. Así que, seguramente, en enero podrás ver acentos perdidos en Cuba, más allá de que, por lo que veo, tienen una ortografía bastante más cuidada que en México. Si se le ofrece algún ciberrecuerdo cubano en particular en forma de foto, soy todo oídos.

¡Le mando un saludo desde el DF y mi agradecimiento sincero!
Estemos en contacto.

Pablo.

I will be linking his blog to this post.

Many thanks to you all for your feedback.

Greetings from London.

Ann Victor said...

What a fantastic story! I love it, and wish we had more people like Pablo who cared about lifting the bar of standards rather than - as is all to often the case in today's disposable world - lowering the bar.

Madame DeFarge said...

Quite right too. A perpetual bugbear of mine. Can he come over here too?

Fly Girl said...

What an inspiring idea! As the daughter of an English teacher and a journalism teacher myself, I often hold myself back from correcting the myriad of mistakes that regularly pop up here.

Rachel Fox said...

Great story!
x

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for your kind words.

Greetings from London.

jane said...

that´s so great. a local boy does good! (well) saludos from vitoria!

trinsch said...

love it!

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