Correct these mistakes for Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and there’s nothing jollier than knowing your vocabulary. Therefore, today we’re learning about two Catalan words that foreigners tend to get wrong.

Now that the tió tradition has gone properly international thanks to Kate McKinnon (see video below), it’s time to debunk the belief that tió means uncle. ‘If you know basic Spanish’ some people say and even write on their blogs ‘you’ll know that tío means uncle’. Well, yes; but we’re talking about a Catalan tradition, hence a Catalan word. Tió—not tío—means log, as Kate explains. And isn’t it obvious? I mean, just look at the bloody thing.

What Kate doesn’t get so right is calling it cagatió. However, there is currently a debate among natives about this issue (trending topic included: #EsDiuTió). As the song to make the tió poo presents starts with ‘Caga tió’, which literally translates to ‘poo [imperative] log’, some use this as the log name and that’s wrong. Conversely, cagatió is indeed a word that means the act of making the tió poo, the event. So you’ll say: On the evening of the 24th we’re doing the cagatió and the tió will poo lots of sweets and presents for us.

It's only Barcelona, BCN or Barna

It’s only Barcelona, BCN or Barna

A not-so-festive issue, but relevant any time a foreigner mentions Barcelona, is what you can call the Catalan capital. Barcelona is the official name, that’s easy. BCN is a well-known and correct abbreviation. There is only one more alternative: Barna, from Bar(celo)na. Barça (pronounced ‘barsa’) is just a name for the football team. So calling the city Barça or Barsa is utterly wrong. Mispronouncing the wrong term and calling it Barca (‘barka’) is even worse, as barca means boat.

So you finally know it and you can sound a bit wiser this Christmas. Now go, deck the halls and don your gay apparel, unless you live in an extremely religious country. Ah, the irony!

August amusement

Having spent the whole July doing summer camps, I had to use my August for something more holiday-like. And town festivals are surely the typical Catalan and sometimes Spanish main summer holiday event.

After two weeks relaxing in the Val d’Aran and two more weeks of a chaotic camp by the beach, the was a choice to be made between going straight back to the dictionary work, thus becoming utterly insane, or enjoy some worries-free party weeks and keep mentally healthy. Surprising as it may seem, I chose the latter.

My first week of freedom was spent around Barcelona, meeting friends and doing things such as visiting the Park Güell [which was stupidly named if you ask me because they use the k as a nod to the supposed English inspiration of the park and make it wrong in both Catalan, because of the spelling, and English, because of the word order].

Folkloric fire in Sant Quintí.

I went to Huesca afterwards and took part in its wine-throwing, shirt-ripping celebration that sets the beginning of the town festival, which involves lots of dancing and drinking and very little sleep. Then I attended Gràcia’s festival for the first time in my life. Gràcia is the neighbourhood of Barcelona where I live now and where my mother grew up. Finally, the festival of my old summer town, Sant Quintí, topped my holidays off with some folkloric representations and night parties, of course.

Unfortunately, summer holidays are getting to their end, as an e-mail from the dictionary people pointed out today, and I should go back to the chemistry terms.

“All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me”

It’s funny how you spit a relatively deep thought without expecting others to notice it and someone surprises you a couple of days later.

Last Monday, when the barman told us they were closing in ten minutes, I told my friend that one of the flaws of life is how routine chases you as you grow up — or old — and you need to run from it and look for spontaneity. At the end of the night he proposed to meet again soon.

The origin of the name of the mountain.

On Wednesday evening, I was waiting at the agreed place and — while eating a hamburger — I realised he was carrying two motorbike helmets. That was a weird image since he hasn’t got a motorbike. He had hired one and had spent all day riding it. Having threatened him so he would respect my physical integrity, we went up the Tibidabo, a mountain behind Barcelona where I hadn’t been for nine years.

From the top we could admire the moon, the city lights, the far ships in the sea, the hotel W Barcelona — which is said to be designed to merge with its environment to be unnoticed — and the thick smog that covers the city. We could also enjoy the silence of the mountain, only disturbed by the distant murmur of the far and never-stopping traffic.

That was a pretty nice scene notwithstanding. We can just complain about feeling the cold wind at that altitude at thirty-five miles per hour, but it got warmer when we entered the smog bubble again.

Vilafranca style

Musical fireworks at Espanya Square.

La Mercè festival is over and tomorrow I was supposed to write a new post, but I don’t want anyone to throw stones to my blog for not going on strike, so I’ll write today.

Last Sunday I brought some stuff to my new flat (I moved to Barcelona two weeks ago) and I went to a party after lunch. It was a multicultural party at some Indian (from India) and Philippine people to get all the people from the lab together, the old ones and the new Erasmus Mundus. They cooked typical food from their countries. Everything tasted so good.

We chatted and widened our food culture and someone said there was a musical fireworks show as a final act of the city festival in Espanya Square. Another show of this kind they did in Vilafranca many years ago came to my mind and I told the others about it. It was not a musical fireworks show but a music and fireworks show.

As I was approaching the show, I could hear La Oreja de Van Gogh. I was almost at the show spot and the song changed to a Shania Twain’s one. I thought there might be some of those unscrupulous people who open their car’s doors and share their music with the world. But no. That music came from the show itself.

I think it was not the best combination. You would expect some classical music, something without lyrics. Anyway, music and fireworks were not coordinated at all. That’s why it was a music and fireworks show and not a musical fireworks one.

We laughed about it before the show in Espanya Square. Then we were quite flabbergasted because, as I said, that was definitely “Vilafranca style”.

La Mercè festival of Garbagecelona 2010

Mercè is the patron of Barcelona and the city is holding the Mercè festival this weekend. That means concerts and rubbish.

Last Friday I went to the concerts in the Fòrum. I didn’t need to get there to feel the atmosphere because the metro was full of people heading for the concerts, drunk people (or people drinking). Well, there were also sober people (with the drinks for the party prepared in a plastic bag).

All those bags, bottles and glasses will be lying on the floor at the end of the night. First source of rubbish. I’m don’t criticise or blame the BYO style. It’s normal doing it when they charge three euros for a beer and a lot for any other drink.

Three groups performed that night. We missed half the first concert ― the one we were interested in ― because we were talking outside. We didn’t pay much attention to the second group either because the girls spend their time on the phone: “I can’t see you. We’re at the back, on the right, in front of the stage, but at the back, where the bar is, next to the toilets. Which amplifier are you talking about?”

We took advantage of the situation to ask for a piece of pizza. I was lucky to know one of the boys who were working there and we ate for free. It looked quite bad because I wanted to say hello and chat, but he had to work. I felt more as a scrounger than nice.

The wrapping paper ended on the floor, obviously. Second source of rubbish. Again, I’m won’t blame the consumers (I’m one of them); but the organizers. They hide a whole wall behind portable toilets, but they can’t install any container for the rubbish.

I had never heard about the third group and I got positively surprised. At that time of the night you had to focus more on avoiding the glass bottles, plastics and wrappings than on dancing. And on that drunk girl who smashed my ankle and didn’t apologise because she had her perception reduced.

And she takes us to the third kind of rubbish: vomits and drunkards themselves spread all over the floor. Once again, I have nothing against people drinking; but if you are to end up throwing up everywhere, bothering everyone and ruining the night because your friends have to take care of you: stay in.

As a result of the night, I could get to the underground without touching the floor for more than five meters. In villages we also have parties and the place stays cleaner at the end of the night ― even taking in account the proportions.