Fashionable Political Spanish

Fashionable Political Spanish

Raúl Guerrero

A deluge befalls Hispanic voters as November 7 approaches. Here are five choice adjectives politicians are using for self-aggrandizement, in Spanish, and the corresponding antonyms to castigate opponents.

Honorable. Truthful, sincere, trustworthy, the candidate of immaculate reputation. A political operative confided that his candidate insists on the introduction: Les presento al honorable... “And here is the Honorable...” The list of antonyms is long: Mentiroso, liar. Sinvergüenza, shameless scoundrel. Inescrupuloso, capable of selling his/her own mother for un voto. And bandido, crook—President Nixon illustrated in his infamous farewell speech, subtitled for Spanish TV: No soy un bandido.

Macho. Nothing tops macho when campaigning. President Clinton explained the reasons by spelling out the Republican mantra: “You have to vote for us (Republicans) 'cause my opponent is a slug, and they're going to tax you into the poorhouse. On the way to the poorhouse, you'll meet a terrorist on every street corner. And when you try to run away from that terrorist, you will trip over an illegal immigrant.” So, point a finger to the imaginary enemy and pronounce: Soy el más macho! “I am the toughest!” The opposite of macho is debilucho, slug and weak. Wimp has a colorful equivalent in mequetrefe.

Galante. Cultured, thoughtful, a man whose probity seduces. Antonyms: Ordinario, rude and crass. Acosador, harasser. Detestable, despicable.

Serio. Thoughtful, prudent, earnest and sober. It has a negative nuance: the inability to make voters laugh. It used to be that running a country demanded utmost seriousness, but today’s voters want entertainment, remarked an operative. “Voters want cool public officials.” The opposite of serious is payaso, clown and fool.

Fiel. Faithful to spouse, religion and ideology. Antonym is infiel, translatable to hell-bound atheist, flip-flopper and sinful adulterer. Camaleón, that wondrous reptile that changes colors to suit the occasion, also works for flip-flapper. Former Senator Specter defined camaleón cinematographically: The candidate that changes positions more often than a pornographic movie queen.

Inteligente. It’s fashionable this season bragging about one’s prodigious intelligence, and candidly proclaim: Soy el más inteligente de la historia. “I am the smartest, ever.” But faking intelligence can be counterproductive. A Hispanic activist told me he and friends attended a political rally armed with antonyms, and as a most intelligent candidate unleashed his verbiage, winking at one another, they observed: Tonto, idiota and imbésil. Tonto is the mildest, not a very smart person, a simpleton. Estúpido is stronger (not the casual dummy the English stupid connotes). Estúpido means you are a disgrace to family, country and humankind, a true idiot. Imbésil is beyond idiocy. The more elegant antonym would be obtuso, weird and twisted.

In other words, paraphrasing Orwell’s observation about political language, hispandering—from Hispanic and pandering, faking interest for Hispanic issues—is a strategy designed to make lies sound truthful and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Raúl Guerrero is the Director of the Downtown Arts + Science Salon, Miami. 

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