¡Que barbaridad!

Having studied languages at university, and now living in Spain, I am fascinated by words. What I hear, read, speak - I don't get all of it, by any means (but oh, how satisfying when I do) - is a constant source of interest. In my early,enthusastic-student days here, I used to carry round a notebook, long since lost in a cardboard box on a shelf somewhere, where I noted down new and interesting words. One that I heard the other day, which I still haven't fathomed really, is ''barbaridad''. It seems to refer to extremes of both good and bad - ``¡que barbaridad!''. The first time anyone said it to me was when I was late for an English class, having had a wee prang in my car. I had reversed into another vehicle, because a drunken self-appointed parking attendant told me I had to repark because I was taking up too much space (thereby depriving him of another tip), and hadn't been looking out for other cars while I was backing out. In hindsight, I should have just told him to remove his alcoholic face. Anyway, after insurance details had been duly exchanged, I arrived tardy and in a foul mood. I gabbled some excuse about a car accident to the student's father and then proceeded to the class. Afterwards, I was talking to him again, and when he realised it had been my fault (well, sort of), he exclaimed, ``¡Que barbaridad!`` I took this to mean that I was a shockingly incompetent, irresponsible and dangerous driver, and felt suitably chastened. But since that day, I have also heard this expression used in a positive sense - on my favourite radio station, RTVE 3, this afternoon, after playing the classic Somewhere over the rainbow, the presenter whispered, in an appropriately awe-struck fashion, ``¡Que barbaridad!''. One of those little things that makes you learn a bit more every day about the language of the country where you live. On reflection, my student's father might have just meant, ´´Blimey!`` ******************* This week I have noticed a lot more ``youths``, as my Mum would say, driving ``pepped-up cars'' (her again) around where I live. Some of them have been quite aggressive, and voiced their disapproval when I parked my car outside the nursery to collect the baby because it was pouring with rain, even though they had plenty of room to get past. I have a few theories about this. 1) Schools are out this week and the kids are bored. 2) The parents have lent their kids the car (I've seen quite a few in BMWs, and I'm pretty sure they weren't teenage drug dealers), or even bought them one, to get them out of the house so they can have a bit of peace. 3) Everyone who isn't into SS has cleared off to the beach, so those left behind are reclaiming the empty roads, chasing each other, and getting together to talk about driving fast, playing loud music and other such anti-social activities. 4) The police are all in Seville controlling the crowds, and the youths know this. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has noticed this phenomenon, and if you can shed any light on the reasons for it, or point out some glaringly obvious factor I've missed which explains everything. And to return to my original point, the next time I see a car being driven too damn fast by a young male on a country road around here, I will tut and say to myself, disapprovingly, ''¡Que barbaridad!`` Middle-aged? Me? Never.
Blog published on 31 March 2010