Book Report

Spanish Lingo for the Savvy Gringo...a Do-it-yourself Guide to the Language, Culture, and Slang. By Elizabeth Reid.

Spanish Lingo for the Savvy Gringo...a Do-it-yourself Guide to the Language, Culture, and Slang. By Elizabeth Reid. Sunbelt Publishing, San Diego California. 217 p.p. $14.95.

Do you want a book that is fun to read, modestly priced, yet presents Spanish, and the Mexican culture in an easily understood way? If so, then this small green book with Aztec designs on the cover will serve you well.

The author, Elizabeth Reid, is an expert in Spanish language and the Mexican culture. Living near the border most of her life, she moved in 1985 to Rosarito Beach in northern Baja to teach English. She has authored other books; Bilingual Cooking, coloring books for children, and Teach English and See the World, a guide for traveling around the globe, by teaching English.

Her purpose in this book is to teach Spanish in a way that’s fun, and that includes slang, culture, and all aspects of this fascinating culture. To get the most out of it, you do not have to read it in any order, but can hop around to topics that are of interest to you. Choose what appeals to you, and then read that section more than once to learn even faster.

After the Introduction, there are 46 short chapters, beginning with Courtesy ( important), and advancing through topics on garden and kitchen, clothing, alphabet, driving, and repair, songs and music, dance, weather, holidays and still more. All chapters are short, and the chapters are followed by appendixes A - D, a separate appendix of slang terms, and a comprehensive index.

I heartily dislike phones in general, and actually never actually used one in Baja until my husband died and then I had to do that for myself.. Elizabeth’s four pages on using a phone, and two pages on talking and listening on phones, took much of the mystery away for me.

There are also short chapters on driving, and mechanics, and a chapter entitled Getting Lost-Perderse, that I could have really used, ( another story).

Hair cuts are covered in a short chapter, (so you and the hairdresser are on the same page for the result you are looking for), and sections on various holidays to help us understand and appreciate the fact that in Mexico, people can celebrate almost everything.

There is an appendix of slang terms...the equivalent of U.S., “ Cool, uncool, funny, and insults”. You find many common forms of slang and words that take on double meanings that do change often. There are many words I would stay away from, but I guess it might be good to know if someone insults you. However, I would probably stay away from all kidding insults unless the other party is also a very good friend.

Probably my favorite section, (I enjoyed them all), was the musical geogrphy lesson. I learned that El Caballo Blanco, is a famous example of a corrido, which is a folk ballad that tells a story. Many of these are of murders, bloody battles, and catastrophes. The author tells us the name comes from the Spanish word “correr”, meaning to run. That’s exactly what a corrido does, it runs on and on, and.......

The corrido El Caballo Blanco does not have a gruesome subject, but is the journey of a whitehorse, (or some say, a Pinto or a Mustang car) making the long trek from mainland Mexico, beginning with Guadalajara, in Jalisco, through countryside and cities, with the exhausted horse almost dying of exhaustion before he finally, slowly, makes it across and starts back down Baja. In the second verse, his rider throws off the saddle and then rides “like lightening”, bareback. As each village and city is passed and named, the listening audience is expected to cheer. This geography lesson takes us through five states and more than 1500 miles and usually ends at Ensenada.

We had no knowledge of this corrido before coming to Baja, and I’m not really sure why my husband decided that our bookstore should become El Caballo Blanco (the White Horse), but of course, it naturally became our song and musicians would rush to the table and sing it on, and on, and on while our meal got cold! Surprisingly though, I still love the song.

Another favorite feature of the book for me, are the many Aztec designs at the end of each chapter. Some are small and simple enough for me to paint on drawers. Everything in this book, which has been around for a while, is a timeless keeper!

Spanish Lingo for the Savvy Gringo can be found ($14.95), at my book store, El Caballo Blanco, in Loreto.