May 10, 2008

Speaking with Facial Expressions

So early on in the creation of the blog I made a post about the Puerto Rican accent in Spanish. I've gotten a bit distracted from talking about language and how Puerto Ricans speak... not entirely, of course, but of course everything comes down to politics, so a fair part of the blog has been, for better or worse, dedicated to that. I think it's about time I returned to a language topic though.

Two gestures are essential to communicating with Puerto Ricans in Spanish. They are the bunny and the kiss!

By the bunny I'm referring to the little nose crinkle. It's used when you don't understand something (where you'd use "what?" instead normally). All it is is a quick wrinkle or two (or three, or...) of your nose, real fast and it's over. If someone doesn't notice you're doing, you repeat it again it's getting silly and then, if it's still not getting their attention, you can throw in a kind of indignant and accusatory "¡¿qué?!" ("what is it?!").

I've watched this move be used by Puerto Ricans on non-Puerto Ricans with a lot of frustration, as either the person doesn't see it, doesn't understand it, or starts making fun of it. My good friend, when she first moved to the U.S., kept unconsciously using it on everyone, without any success, until it got to the point where she gave up except on those who got it. Eventually I ended up doing it as well, and now I know how she feels, because every once in a while it'll come out and people just don't know how to react to it. But on the other hand, for those who get it, it saves time and is quite effective.

The second thing is the kiss... no, not really kissing, but rather pointing with lips. The motion is the same as if you were blowing an extremely fast kiss. Again, very usual gesture since it saves times (and potentially rude pointing... although I don't know if this would be much better, honestly).

The kissing I know is used in a variety of other cultures, although I'm under impression that the bunny thing is purely Puerto Rican--if it isn't, someone please let me know. And if anyone has some good stories about the confusion caused by this, share!

5 comments:

Minerva said...

That was funny and very instructional... though all my illusions were shattered when I found out what it meant when guys in a neighbourhood bar were pointing at me with their mouth. They were just talking about me... :-((

Speaking Boricua said...

Haha! Yeah, sorry your bubble's been burst. They might have been saying good things though... you never know!

Anonymous said...

Funny how this "kiss" is also used by Filipinos in the Philippines. Just goes to show how much people have a lot more in common if they would only bother to look.

Anonymous said...

The bunny-nose thing is not purely Puerto Rican -- it's used in parts of Central America, esp. Nicaragua. Nicas use the lip-point gesture, too. Your description of the reaction of U.S. anglos to the nose thing is dead-on!

Felix said...

HAHAHA! I remember when mi friend taught me about the bunny thing. I would look at him like he was nuts! Mi interpretation was that he was disgusted with what I was saying...even when I wasn't the one speaking hahaha. Of course, I found out that it meant "what is it" or "what's going on?" We would have a joke about how we could have a whole conversation with various twitches of the face and the person we were speaking to would be like "What?! She did that? Wow, and you said that. How interesting." Hahaha ahhhh good times. People are such funny creatures. So inventive.