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Thursday, September 2, 2021

La peculiaridad lingüística rioplatense

 I'm reading the book of Américo Castro that Borges skewers in his review of 1941. It is quite as bad as Borges says. I hadn't seen from Borges's review (a more famous text than the book itself) how Castro's theories of hispanidad relate to his disdain for the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires. It's that Argentina is even worse than Spain in its failure to be modern, as an imperial backwater. 

Theories of linguistic decadence are always suspect. The is supposed to be modern and educated, the vos a sign of decay.  But why?  Borges seems infinitely more intelligent than Castro, because he is capable of seeing that gaucho poetry is not a threat to civilization or an accurate rendition of the actual language people spoke, but simply a convenient literary construction that had its day.  

Castro reminds me a bit of the anti-flamencos in Spain, with a kind of visceral fear of the urban underclass. Borges points out that Spain, too, has a slang developed among criminals. It seems arbitrary to castigate lunfardo as a representative of how everybody speaks in BA.  Castro's inability to recognize parodic language, used for comic effect, is itself hilarious.  The fear of linguistic play is amazing, as is the moral panic over sexual matters: "La obsesión sexaul se apodera del niño rioplatense desde bien temprano." He gets upset because the word "concha" has sexual meaning in Argentina.