Billennial: A member of the “millennial” generation—born between the 1980s and early 2000s—who is fluent in two languages, usually Spanish and English. A portmanteau of bilingual and millennial. Also an adjective (“billennial generation”).
The Texas-based Spanish-language television network Univisionused billennial to describe its 2015-2016 programming, introduced in May at the industry event known as “upfronts.”
Gentefication (hen-tay-fee-KAY-shun): A Spanglish portmanteau of Spanish gente (“people”) and the English suffix from “gentrification.” Defined as “the process of upwardly mobile Latinos, typically second-generation and beyond, investing in and returning to the old neighborhood.” (Leslie Berestein Rojas, Multi-American blog, KPCC (Southern California Public Radio), December 28, 2011.)
To many, these newer landmarks along First Street are clear signs of gentrification.
To Guillermo Uribe, who opened the bar several years ago, it is something else: gentefication. These are people — in Spanish, gente — who enthusiastically talk about maintaining the area’s deep sense of Mexican-American history.
Gentrification, on which gentefication is based, first appeared in print in 1973 in the Times of London, according to the OED. The verb form, gentrify—”to renovate or convert (housing, esp. in an inner-city area) so that it conforms to middle-class taste; to render (an area) middle-class”—had appeared the previous year, also in a British publication.
The Eastside Luv website is enthusiastic, playful, and sincere about its origins and intentions:
The decision to change the name was not easy to make, but felt it was necessary to communicate the LOVE we have for our Chicano/Pocho2/Latino EASTSIDE experience. …
The improvements are mostly inside (which is where all improvements should start) and consist of: custom CHAINdeliers inspired by lowrider chain steering wheels, Low Rider Lounge Shairs upholstered in Dickies and Pendleton fabric and clear plastic as Grandmas did, Wino Bench Seating upholstered in black corduroy inspired by gangster business casual wino house slippers, Light Sconces & Cabinets adorned with chicken wire... just to name a few of the elements inspired by our East Los Angeles existence.
We are, however, well aware that before BROOKLYN AVE became Cesar Chavez Ave, Boyle Heights was home to a large Jewish community.3 So, we decided to make our cocktails using Soju4 (ehhh)... actually we decided to design the inside to look and feel like many of the beautiful turn of the century Victorian and Craftsman Bungalows that dominate Boyle Heights... only a bit sexxxier.
“I [Heart] Eastside Luv” T-shirts and sweatshirts carry a visual and verbal pun: the heart symbol is the Sacred Heart, seen frequently in Mexican Catholic iconography; and the acronym for Eastside Luv also stands for “English as a Second Language.”
Besides gentefication and Chipsters, contemporary East L.A. slang includes:
Tweecanos: Chicanos on Twitter
Googlear: to Google (using the Spanish infinitive-verb ending -ar)
Feisbuk: “Facebook” rendered in phonetic Spanish
MariachiOke: karaoke with mariachi music. (Read about other -oke blends here.)
1 Queso means “cheese” in Spanish, but the orthography turns the word into a bilingual pun meaning, roughly, “so what.”
3 Personal aside: My father grew up in Boyle Heights when it was a mostly Jewish neighborhood, and graduated from Roosevelt High School. My grandmother is buried in a Boyle Heights cemetery.
4 Soju is a distilled liquor made in Korea, traditionally from rice, wheat, and barley. I think this joke is a slightly off-target reference to the Jewish custom of eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas, but I could be wrong. See Aswang's comment about "so Jew."
What I’m not so crazy about is the event’s alternate name: Oaklavia.
As you can see, the official spelling is Oaklavía, with an acute accent over the i, so I know it’s meant to be pronounced oak-la-VEE-ya. But where I’ve most often seen it – in the #oaklavia hashtag, the oaklavia.org URL, and sundry blog posts – the accent doesn’t show up. And every time I see it, I read it as oak-LAY-vee-ya, to rhyme with “Octavia” or “Batavia.” And it’s a short slide from oak-LAY-vee-ya to oak-labia, and let’s try to be grownups here, shall we?
Oaklavía has been an annual event since 2010; the name and the activity are modeled after Ciclovía – “bike path” in Spanish – an open-streets event that originated in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1976 and has been a weekly occurrence in many Colombian cities ever since. Ciclovía has inspired many similar events around the world: San Francisco’s, which takes place from spring through fall, is called Sunday Streets; Los Angeles has a semiannual CicLAvia, which may be pronounced with a stressed vee, but you’d never guess it from the capitalized LA. CicLAvia always makes me think about cicadas, which is ridiculous, because there are no cicadas in L.A.
Who’s minding the store at Target? A week ago Consumerist reported that the retailer was selling a plus-size dress in a color unflatteringly called Manatee Gray. (A manatee is also known as a sea cow.) This week there’s been a cross-lingual dustup over a sandal style called “Orina,” which means “urine” in Spanish.
Image from Yahoo Shine. Target quickly removed the product page and is said to be renaming the style.
“Does no one speak Spanish at Target HQ or have access to this thing we call Google?” asked Consumerist reporter Mary Beth Quirk. No and no, apparently. Target’s initial defense was that “orina” means “peaceful” in Russian. As though Russian rather than Spanish were the second-most-spoken language in the United States, after English.
I learned about Target’s number-one problem via a tweet from Mighty Red Pen, who also sent me a link to Yahoo Shine’s coverage of the story. Full marks to senior editor Lylah M. Alphonse, whose recounting of other notable naming gaffes sets the record straight on the Chevy Nova “no-go” myth.
Target isn’t the only business with Orina issues. A similar etymological fallacy led to the naming of Café Orina in the Bay Area city of Concord, California.
When Maura Storace sent me the photo, she commented, “I wonder if the coffee they serve is amber-colored?”
The café’s About Us page includes this earnest explanation:
Meaning of Orina Its source is Eirene, a Greek name meaning “Peace.”
Narrative: This was the name of the Greek goddess of peace. Until the 20th century, it was commonly pronounced in three syllables (i-REE-nee).
Very nice, but there are almost 700,000 native Spanish speakers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and only a relative handful of Greek speakers.
Moral: Check several bilingual dictionaries before committing to a lovely-sounding exotic name. And know your market.
And as long as this post is already in the toilet, here’s Kmart’s new TV spot, which – incongruously for a retailer not known for creative marketing – takes positive glee in its potty humor. The much-repeated tagline is “Ship my pants.”
For more on the British idiom “taking the piss” – not to be confused with “taking a piss” – read this.
I was in a Walgreen’s in South Berkeley, looking for something else entirely, when I was distracted by a shelf full of health and beauty products I’d never noticed, from brands catering to the Spanish-speaking market. I put away my shopping list and took out my camera and notebook.
For starters, I appreciate a bilingual name pun.
Campana is Spanish for “bell.”
It says here that Asepxia is “the leading brand in Latin America for acne treatment.”
I assumed that the name signifies “aseptic,” but I stumbled over the pronunciation. In Spanish, X usually sounds like H in the middle of a word (Mexico is “meh-hee-co”), but in some words of indigenous derivation it sounds like S or SH: the Mexico City district of Xochimilco is pronounced Socheemilco, for instance. I’m guessing Asepxia is pronounced “asepsia,” with the X inserted for trademarkability and a science-y look.
Goicoechea is a Basque (euskera) surname, possibly the name of someone involved with the company, which is based in Mexico and called Genomma Lab International. The company’s been around since 1926, but I couldn’t find out much more about it. Is “Genomma” supposed to suggest “genome”?
I was also struck by “reaffirming,” which sounds very motivational. A U.S. equivalent would say “firming.”
My photo wasn’t sharp enough, so I’ve substituted one from Walgreens.com.
The illustrations on this packet of McCoy cod-liver-oil tablets look as though they haven’t changed since 1932. The real McCoy!
The lady on the left is grimacing as she takes her dose by the spoonful (“desagradable” – disagreeable), while the lady on the left is enjoying her pastillas, which have “neither taste nor odor.”
Yes, the male-enhancement products were right next to the cod-liver-oil tablets. Hombrón means “big man.” You already know what Super Macho means. I liked el toro, whose image isn’t used frivolously: the product claims to contain “bull glands.”
This particular Walgreen’s is always deserted when I shop there, so I’ve never drawn any conclusions about its customers. Apparently enough of them speak Spanish to justify bilingual signs like this one on almost every aisle:
“Salta de Alegría” doesn’t have quite the promotional zip of “Get a Hop on Happy” – it’s closer to “Jump for Joy.”
After my Spanish-immersion excursion I was primed to notice the nametag on my sales clerk: MAREA, which translates to “tide” (as in low or high, ebb or flood). She’s lucky she wasn’t named Mareo, which means seasickness.
Caganer: “A figure of a squatting defecating person, a traditional character in Catalan Christmas crèche scenes [from Catalan cagar shit].” – Collins English Dictionary. Pronounced, approximately, ka-ga-NAY, the last syllable rhyming with day.
According to a Rough Guides article, the caganer emerged in the early 18th century, a period when Christmas nativity scenes “shed their elitist trappings” and “everyday farm life figures began to appear, from the cobbler pounding out horseshoes to the village woman washing clothes in the river.” And there, in a corner, was the caganer, “engaged in his own daily task”:
The typical caganer sports a red barretina, the Catalan peasant headwear, and he’s often smoking a pipe or reading the newspaper, the more pleasurably to pass the time. He has traditionally been a farmer, symbolizing the fertilization of the earth. With his pants around his ankles, he is engaged in that most primary of cycles; to eat, and then to enrich the earth with his droppings so that it will once again yield a bountiful harvest.
The first caganeras (female figurines) appeared in the 1970s. Today, Catalan nativity scenes may include caganers of political figures, famous artists, entertainers, soccer players, monarchs, and the pope.
In 2010, Barcelona’s Mare Magnum shopping center erected a six-meter-tall Santa caganer. (That’s 19 feet, 8 inches.) It was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as theworld’s largest caganer.
According to a Wikipedia entry, the caganer isn’t the only pooper at a Catalan Christmas party:
[A]nother is theTió de Nadal, which also makes extensive use of the image of faecal matter (it is a log, i.e. tió, with a face painted on it, which, having been “fed” for several weeks, is told to defecate on Christmas Eve and “magically” produces candy for children, a candy that has supposedly come from its bowels). Other mentions of faeces and defecation are common in Catalan folklore: indeed, a popular Catalan saying for use before a meal is “menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort!” (Eat well, shit a good deal and don't be afraid of death!).
The Wikipedia entry includes this note about the caganer tradition: “In recent years a urinating statue, or Pixaner, has also appeared, but it hasn't taken root or gained any serious popularity.”
If you’re in North America and have never heard of Zara, it’s probably because you don’t live in one of a handful of cities (Toronto, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, et al.) where there’s a Zara store. In much of the rest of the world, however, the Zara brand is ubiquitous; in fact, Zara is the world’s biggest retailer. It earned that title by specializing in “fast fashion”: quickly produced, quickly distributed, and quickly replaced imitations of current trends. In an article for the November 11 New York Times Magazine, reporter Suzy Hansen tours the corporate headquarters of Inditex, the parent company of Zara and several other retail brands that collectively make about 840 million garments a year and have about 5,900 stores in 85 countries, “though that number is always changing because Inditex has in recent years opened more than a store a day, or about 500 stores a year.”
The first Zara store opened in 1975 in La Coruña, a small city in Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain. Founder Amancio Ortega Gaona, who is now 76 and ranked the third-richest man in the world, wanted to call the store Zorba, after the 1964 film Zorba the Greek:
“I don’t think they were thinking of making history, just that it was a nice name,” [Inditex communications director Jesus] Echevarría said. “But apparently there was a bar that was called the same, Zorba, like two blocks away, and the owner of the bar came and said, ‘This is going to confuse things to have two Zorbas.’ They had already made the molds for the letters in the sign, so they just rearranged them to see what they could find. They found Zara.”
Scrabble writ large, you might say.
A few other tidbits of interest from the story:
Inditex doesn’t advertise and “hardly has a marketing department.” What marketing it does do, Hansen writes, “is all about real estate. The company invests heavily in the beauty, historical appeal and location of its shops.” In Spain, there are Zara stores in an 18th-century convent in Salamanca and in a historic movie theater in Elche.
In addition to Zara, Inditex brands include Zara Home, Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, and Uterqüe. (See below for my naming notes.)
The Spanish economy is in terrible shape, but Inditex is thriving. One reason, Hansen writes: “Every piece of clothing the company makes has, in a way, been requested. A business model that is so closely attuned to the customer does not share the cycle of a financial crisis.”
“[T]he Inditex effect is not confined to cheap, fast fashion. It has forced — or inspired, depending on how you look at it — people to spend their money in a different manner. In Zara, every purchase is an impulse buy; there’s no longer any saving up for that gorgeous leather jacket in the window. … It’s a way of consumption that has conditioned buyers to expect this up-to-the-minute trendiness and variety in higher-end labels as well.” In fact, designer brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton, which used to produce just two lines a year – spring/summer and autumn/winter – now make four to six collections. “That’s absolutely because of Zara,” says Masoud Golsorkhi, the editor of the London fashion magazine Tank.
My own naming notes:
Inditex is a shortening of Industria de Diseño Textil, S.A. (Textile Design Industries).
Uterqüe’s name comes from Latin uterque, meaning “each of both.” It’s pronounced oo-ter-kway; the dieresis over the U gives Spanish speakers a pronunciation cue. (Without it, the Spanish pronunciation would be oo-ter-kay.) Uterqüe – the newest addition to the Inditex stable – sells women’s ready-to-wear and accessories at slightly higher prices than Zara’s.
Oysho sells lingerie and sleepwear. I haven’t been able to find out what, if anything, “Oysho” means.
Bershka’s customer is youthful but not as “urban” as Pull&Bear’s. Again: no idea where the name comes from. UPDATE: See Licia’s comment on Oysho and Bershka, below.
* Isn’t every price “accessible” (or “affordable”) if you have enough money?
Olvera Street (Calle Olvera) is the oldest street in Los Angeles, dating back to the city’s founding in 1781. Situated opposite Union Station and named for Los Angeles County’s first judge, Agustín Olvera, the street has been a tourist-friendly “Mexican marketplace” since 1930. It’s artificial (the commercial strip was planned and executed by a wealthy Anglo, Christine Stirling) yet also authentic (several historic buildings still stand). In other words, it’s a living metaphor of Los Angeles.
On a recent trip to L.A. I visited Olvera Street for the first time in many years. I found much unchanged (a few establishments, like La Luz del Día restaurant, have been around since the 1950s), while other things have adapted to changing times.
There were lots of Día de los Muertos items for sale, including these same-sex wedding-cake toppers.
A “Who Would Jesus Deport?” T-shirt.
Painted-tile bathroom sign in Spanglish.
I’m not sure why it’s “Mr.” Churro and not “Señor,” but the name does fit the bilingual flavor of the rest of the sign. And of course I’m always happy to meet a Mr. business name in the wild.
This mug was one of many souvenirs bearing the “Latina – Proud, Educated and Powerful!” motto. It appeared to be a girls-only phenomenon.
If you haven’t found a parking sign with your child’s name, maybe you’ve been shopping in the wrong place.
Travel note: I recommend taking one of the Metro Line (rapid-transit) trains into Union Station and wandering around to admire the spectacular Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and décor. While you’re on Olvera Street, allow some time to view the long-hidden fresco by the great Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974). Originally unveiled in October 1932, the painting was whitewashed shortly afterward to obscure its “radical” subject matter. After more than 40 years of planning and preservation work, it reopened to public viewing earlier this month.
In a guest post for Duets Blog, I look at one of the most popular and persistent of all naming myths: the one about the Chevrolet Nova. The car hasn’t been produced since 1988, but the story about how the Nova name “failed” in Spanish-speaking countries—because it means “no go,” according to the legend—lives on.
Guess what? “Nova” isn’t “no va,” and the Nova sold well in Latin America.
Read the post to learn more about the “Nova” myth and why it has proved so surprisingly durable.