October 21, 2008

Word of the Week: Frajlai

Sorry I've been missing the last week or so. Anyways, I've skipped the last couple... issues Puerto Rico has had. By that, I mean natural disasters. Sort of. There was the earthquake, and then Hurricane Omar... yeah. Anyways, so that you have this word for the next one, I thought I'd get a word of the week in there.

There are a couple of different ways to say flashlight in Spanish, but Puerto Rico has its own--frajlai, from the American flashlight. Linguistically it's a fascinating word. "Sh" is replaced with "j", since it's the end of the syllable and ending it with "j" is a very Puerto Rican tendency. There's also no attempt to end the second syllable with the English consonant, a typical trait of words being transferred to Puerto Rican Spanish (look at bre, for example, as in "Dame un bre", give me a break literally). The most interesting thing though is the change from "l" to "r". Even though "flash", when brought into Spanish, kept the "l", for the Puertoricanization of a similar word it had to be changed. My friend gave me a very Puerto Rican explanation for this change: "It sounded too much like chino with the l" (an analysis of the millions of uses of the word chino to come later!). This represents a sort of schism with the other Spanishes, which could accept the "fl" sound, in favor of a sound more natural to Puerto Rican Spanish. This doesn't mean that Puerto Rican Spanish doesn't include words like "flaco" or others with "fl", but rather that it is able to affirm its own Spanish inside of a global and traditional Spanish. Like most things Puerto Rican, it is the acceptance of a contradiction that does not need to be solved; it just is because it is. It's brilliant.

1 comment:

Petra H said...

Ha ha, I love it!! BTW, somebody ( a Puerto Rican) explained to us a while back that the origin of zafacon was Arabic but I can't find any reference to that on the net...
I used "hangear" for the first time yesterday and I actually did feel just a little silly ;-)