Thursday, December 2, 2010

Te Gusta o No Te Gusta / Take It or Leave It (like it or not) Y/AND Es Lo Que Hay / That's All There Is To It

Time for some bastard linguistic anthropology with Palmer Fishman.

It all started when I wanted to be sure the plug-in heaters were sufficient to warm a potential apartment.
    the agent said, 
       "I can go turn them on first thing in the morning, then you come by before my lunch
          (which lasts a standard 3 hours by the way) 
and take a feel."

The next morning was sunny and unseasonably warm, so we had no idea of the heaters' effectiveness.  When I mentioned this to our agent, she, sensing where I was going with this, cut me off.

"Te gusta, o no te gusta el piso?"
Literally this translates to
    "The apartment - do you like it, or do you not like it?"

What she means to say is something akin to our expression,
      take it or leave it.
As in,
 if you like the apartment, 
    rent it, and if not
         don't, but do 
              not bother me with all your complications regarding heat or light or whether the fridge smells bad or what time of day the sun comes in.

Otto and I realized we now had the key to understanding so much of Spanish (or at least Catalan) culture that had so far confused us.  I should emphasize that this is not a question of language per se, but of different uses of the same Spanish language in different cultures.  These expressions don't exist in Central America, at least not in the same form.

When a restaurant manager seemed very put out that I asked him to stop drilling holes next to our table until we were done eating, his expression said
te gusta, o no te gusta, i.e.
if you don't like it, get out of my restaurant.

When the people who sold me a faulty cell phone the day prior don't understand why I'm upset that they won't exchange it?
Te gusta, o no te gusta.
You don't like your phone?  Buy a new one.  (they really said this to me)

When the organizers of a performance festival did 
while an artist with a lit cigarette deliberately 
blew smoke as he chased my friend with respiratory problems around an enclosed space, and I complained, what was their response?
Te gusta, o no te gusta. 
The name of his piece was Toxico, what else do you expect?  It's part of his concept to harass and provoke his audience, in some cases to the point of vomiting.

Understanding te gusta o no te gusta also helps explain why Spanish housing prices cannot be explained by classic 'Western' economics.  It also helps explain why classic Western economics doesn't really work, period.

from the Wall Street Journal, November 26, a comment on the article "A Home Price Puzzle in Spain":

"You have to understand Spanish thinking and logic. 
My house is worth 500,000 euros and it matters 
not that the identical house next door just sold for 
      350,000 euros.
 If anyone wants to buy my house they pay 
      500,000 euros and 
that is the price and 
therefore the valuation. "

Te guste o no te guste.

the commenter adds:
"My bar is doing no business so I put up the price of beer. I kid you not."

Today we discovered a corollary, or perhaps an underlying axiom would be more accurate:

Es lo que hay.

It's what there is. 

 That's all there is to it. (translation according to Yahoo! Answers)

This expression is generally uttered at the end of a lengthy complaint about one's job, spouse, car, house, phone service, dinner, or sex life.
It means, things really suck, but
     what can you do?  
      That's what there is.  
              There is nothing else.  
                    Nothing better.  

Es lo que hay.  So we deal with it.

Otto commented that this is a fatalistic perspective in which the person does not have agency to change the situation.  He further noted that it is a secular version of Latin America's lo que Dios quiere, it's what God wants.

So, to conclude, if

Es lo que hay / this is what there is

then your options are

te gusta o  / you like it or
no te gusta  / you don't like it

but either way, don't complain to me.