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Recomendación al Gobierno de México por parte del Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME) durante su XVII reunión ordinaria.
• 500 millones de personas hablan español en el mundo
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Monday, June 7, 2010
by Ramón Talavera Franco
6 June 2010
A couple of days ago, a friend and I were having a cup of coffee. My friend speaks fluent English and Spanish, so we were code-switching continually. During our conversation, we moved from literature to personal topics. You know how digressions occur during these kinds of conversations, so—all of a sudden—we mentioned the name of a mutual friend. He offered to give me our friend’s telephone number to catch up with him.
In order do not abandon our main topic, which was literature, I responded, “Ahorita me lo das.” As I tried to continue with our topic of interest, my friend interrupted me and asked: “¿Ahorita? When is ahorita?” I smiled. I was taken aback. He was right.
In Mexico (my native country), we are used to saying “ahorita,” which can mean: “at this exact moment” or “in a little while.” This can be confusing for someone who is not immersed in our cultural uses of language. It is all about how pragmatics modifies the way of communicating ideas. Hence, I explained to him that when I said “ahorita,” I meant “during the time we were together having a cup of coffee, and before we leave” . . . a timeless moment.
¿Ahorita? . . . No, not yet
¿Ahorita? . . . Yes! Ahorita. (Now.)
There’s more! My friend’s analytical mind requested another explanation: Why do Mexican-origin people express so many ideas in the diminutive form? I laughed. I couldn’t stop laughing! Yes! I added. These are polite expressions we use: el pastelito, tu mamita, un taquito, ahorita, etc. We tend to use the diminutive in words that cannot accept this form such as in adverbs. For instance, the word “ahora” is an adverb of time, so it is not grammatically correct to transform an adverb into the diminutive form or superlative, as we can with nouns: el perrito, el taquito, el pastelito, etc. When we transform the adverb “ahora” into the diminutive form, we are breaking academic rules of language! Although grammatically incorrect, pragmatics makes “ahorita” an acceptable use in the spoken Spanish language.
My friend and I continued our conversation. It got late, and it was time to go home. We said good-bye, and we decided to continue our conversation on literature some time next week. When I got in the car, I realized that our conversation was so interesting that we both forgot about our mutual friend; thus, I never got his telephone number. There was no “ahorita,” as my friend probably expected. This happens often. When my Mexican-origin friends and I say “ahorita,” and we do not act immediately, we tend to forget.
Lesson Learned and Recommended:
If a Mexican-origin person tells you that he or she is going to write down your friend’s telephone number and says “ahorita,” stop the conversation, hand over a piece of paper and a pen and get the number.