So, I work with a guy from Argentina. That’s the land of… um, well, the Andes are down there, I think. And there are llamas. And that’s where most of the, uh, Argentiniacs hang out, most of the time.
That’s pretty much all I know. What do I look like, Carmen frigging Sandiego? You wanna know about Argentina, go read an encyclopedia. You might wanna start with ‘A’. Meanwhile, I’m tellin’ a story over here.
So, this guy’s name is Guillermo. I’ve never known a real Guillermo before, but it was almost my name, at least for a little while. I’ll tell you all about it…
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It was the fall of 1987. I was a senior in high school.
(Christ, it’s been seventeen fucking years?! Damn, I’m old. I’m surprised I’m not fricking incontinent by now.
Oh. Damn. Scratch that. Ew.)
Anyway, I was starting my senior year, and the shit was just about to hit the fan. Or, more appropriately, ‘el shitto‘ was hurtling headlong toward ‘la fana‘. Or something like that. I don’t know.
The point is, I was finally out of ways to avoid taking my foreign language requirement. I was down to my last year of high school, and I needed two funny-talking credits to graduate. Shit, this is fan. Fan, meet shit. Let’s rock.
Now, before I go any further, let me be clear — it’s not that I didn’t want to learn another language, exactly. I’m all about the diversity, and being exposed to other cultures, and all that holding-hands-and-singing-and-pretty-rainbows kind of stuff. That’s cool and shit. You get some of the best porn that way, too, and it’s hard to argue with that kind of bonus.
But frankly, I’d never had any practice with learning anything like a language before, and I had other things on my mind — like chemistry, and advanced biology, and how the hell I was ever gonna manage to get laid again. That didn’t leave a lot of time for conjugating verbs in some other fricking language, fer chrissakes. It’s simply a matter of priorities.
But, I had no choice, so I had to sign up for a class. I had three options — Spanish, French, and Latin. And it turned out to be a pretty easy decision, frankly.
I mean, first of all, Latin is a ‘dead language’. And secondly, the Latin teacher was a hotheaded sort of lady who didn’t like me calling Latin a ‘dead language’. Which it is, but she didn’t want to hear it. But I kept saying it to her anyway. So clearly, Latin was out of the question. Which was great — that made my decision a little easier. I always knew being a sneery smartass would come in handy someday.
After that, it was a simple matter of practicality. Spanish and French, French and Spanish. Geography didn’t help, unfortunately — I didn’t grow up in Miami, or on the Canadian border, so there was no clear winner there. And both Spain and France are way the hell over there in Europe or Asia or Middle Earth or some shit like that — I figured I was probably never going to make it to either country (which turned out to be wrong), so that was a wash, too.
Briefly, I considered the important question, which was, of course: Which language is eventually gonna help me get laid? And that would point towards French, of course — but soon, I realized that I wasn’t getting laid in any language without some serious help, and decided that it really wasn’t realistic to think a few ‘mon cherie‘s — which I had already learned, anyway — were gonna get me into anybody’s pants. So I was back to square one. Frustrated, fidgety, horny square one. Welcome to my high school years.
So, the decision came down to the next most favorite organ in a young man’s life — my stomach. And suddenly it was crystal clear. What was I more likely to be using, or want to be using, to order food? Well, that’s easy. I’d never had French food at that point, and wasn’t likely to start anytime soon — since I wasn’t anywhere close to getting laid, remember, and why the hell would anyone eat that crap if they weren’t trying to impress a girl?
On the other hand, I was — and am — a huge fan of spicy food, and spent a fair amount of my time in and around the local Taco Bell, so there you have it: Spanish it was going to be. And finally, I could order my fast food in style: ‘Tres burrrrrrritos, por favor, mi hermano! Vaya con dios!‘
(Don’t you love this blog, by the way? I just spent twelve paragraphs telling you that I decided to take Spanish in high school, which you already knew, because I started the damned post by talking about this guy Guillermo from Argentina. Dude. Imagine if I ever had anything important to talk about, eh? Wheeeeeeee!)
Okay, let’s kick this into another gear. Where the hell did I leave off, anyway?
Oh, right. I’m in Spanish 101, or whatever the hell it was called. Okay. So, first day of class, and we’re all getting our ‘Spanish names’. Which ended up being way less cool than I thought it would be — I kinda thought it would be like some sort of newbie Chicano gang hazing thing. Like we’d walk in, and the teacher would be all like:
‘Hey, you. Ya, you there. Yo’ name is ‘El Diablo’ from now on. And you over there — when you’re in this room, you’re ‘Senor Gringo’. And you, girl — you’re gonna answer to ‘Conchita La Bomba’. And if you don’t… I cut you!‘
Except it wasn’t like that at all. Not even close. Actually, it went a lot more like this:
Teacher: Okay, what’s your name?
Student #1: I’m Mike.
Teacher: Mike? Okay, in this class, you’ll be ‘Miguel’.
Me (thinking) Sure, that makes sense. Fine.
Teacher: And how about you? Who are you?
Student #2: I’m called John.
Teacher: Okay, John — in here, we’ll call you ‘Juan’.
Me: (thinking) John. Juan. Sounds good. Maybe this Spanish shit isn’t so hard, after all.
Teacher: So what’s your name, then?
Me: My name’s Charlie.
Teacher: Charlie, eh? Well, we’ll call you ‘Guillermo’.
Me: Goo-yerma-wha? Don’t fuck with me, lady.
Teacher: That’s the closest there is, I’m afraid.
Me: No way. Isn’t there, like, a ‘Charuel’ or a ‘Charlito’ or something?
Teacher: Well, there’s ‘Charo’. You want that?
Me: Uh, no. Shit. This sucks.
Teacher: You know, if you’d taken French, you could be ‘Charlemagne’.
Me: Oh, nice. Dissed by the intro Espanol teacher. Just kill me now.
Actually, it all ended up okay. I immediately asked whether I could have a different name. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a ‘Guillermo’, mind you — it’s just that I didn’t want to have to constantly be thinking about how to spell my damned name, on top of the pressure of taking tests and shit. I mean, honestly — it took me until the ninth grade or so to get past that little hurdle with the name I started out with. Why go through that nightmare again?
So, the teacher threw me a bone, and let me pick a name. It was the only reasonable thing that Spanish-spouting perfectionist punta ever did for me, but I didn’t know about any of that yet. I just knew that I was on the spot to think of something more reasonably spellable (and pronouncable) than ‘Guillermo’. And I had damned little to work with, what with my limited experience in the area and my tiny, tiny little brain. I couldn’t even remember whether that little Taco Bell chihuahua had a name. So now I’m a multilingual moron. Fantastico.
Finally, just in the nick of time, it came to me: Manuel. I could spell it, I could say it, and — best of all — that’s the name of the hilarious hotel busboy in Fawlty Towers with John Cleese. So, I spent the next two semesters answering to Manuel, and spouting lines from the show at random times:
‘He go crazy! Crazy! He want to see the girl!‘
‘E-ven-tu-al-ly. Si, si — I forget it even-tu-al-ly.‘
‘I know nothing…. No, no… I know nooooothing. I am from Barcelona!‘
So, it wasn’t so bad, after all. And I still got to be a smartass. (And tell the Latin teacher she was teaching a ‘dead language’, too — Christ, she was high-strung. I think she thwacked me with a ruler over that once.)
And — best of all — I learned just enough in those two years of high school Espanol to pass the college entrance test saying that I didn’t have to take any more language requirements. And I mean just enough. They ‘suggested‘ that I should take another semester or two.
I said, ‘You ‘suggest’‘?
They said, ‘Yes. It’s highly suggested.‘
‘But not ‘required’?‘
‘No, you passed the test, by a point or two. But we think —‘
‘Okay, then, buh-bye.‘
‘But you really should —‘
‘No, no, senors. Adios, now. Vamos.‘
‘But we —‘
‘Uh-uh-uh. Vamos. Don’t make me puta-slap you people. Shoo, now. ‘I am from Barcelona!’‘
So, there you have it. The story of how I almost became a Guillermo, and ended up a Manuel. Moving, no? And, just like I thought, Spanish has in no way helped me to get laid, ever, over the years. But I can order a mean taquito, mother fuckers. So I’ve got that going for me. Ole!Permalink | 12 Comments