Friday, May 11, 2007

The rude world

Here's a funny one. What does the expression "basto mundo" mean? By the dictionary, it should be something like the "rude, crude world," but the usage examples, of which there are some 800+, don't seem to fit that meaning.

Suddenly light dawns! Someone meant to write "vasto mundo," and so it means the "wide world," the "vast world." The slip could be due either to the "v" and the "b" being next to each other on the keyboard, or to the fact that "v" and "b" are aren't distinguished in pronunciation, and therefore highly confusable in Spanish (probably a combination of both factors). To a Spanish speaker, no doubt the intended meaning of the misspelled phrase is immediately obvious; in fact it probably takes a spelling pedant to even notice the slip. In contrast, to an English speaker like me, for whom "v" and "b" are as different as "p" and "f" or as "t" and "d," it's a stumper even when I'm reading in Spanish.

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