POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN BA (2nd edition)

If you have not read the introduction of the book “Che, boludo” yet, let me quote for you an excerpt:

Argentines love to talk. They comunicate directly, openly and often loudly. In Argentina, there’s no taboo in the use of foul language. A respectable old woman will swear like a sailor and no one bats an eye. Fools are not suffered lightly and anyone behaving in a pretentious or obnoxious manner will be sharply reprimended, sometimes with just a simple gesture of the hands. Political correctness does not exist on Argentina because it would only impede getting your point across. (…) It is evident when Argentines communicate with one another that their freedom of speech is real.

Well, sounds great… and it is even plausible at first sight. However, it is a little too much.

Getting your point across is important in Argentine speech. Yes. Of course with exceptions, it´s ok to call things by its name: avoiding this is making it shameful, something you should feel embarrassed about. Also, it´s true that we often use the imperative form instead of other periphrastic ways to ask for things such as “¿podría decirme?”. We do prefer “vos” instead of “usted”, we kiss sometimes even in a formal situation, etc.

Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that there is no political correctness. You can be really offensive.

I always remember a story told to me by an ex-student. She was at a disco and she had asked a man to take a picture of her and her friends. At some moment, he let her camera fall, and she said (trying to sound understanding) “Eh, boludo!” She could not understand why he got angry: she had heard so many times that “boludo” is a word that people use with their friends.

Here is the thing: “boludo” can be used (and it´s actually used) with your friends but it doesn´t make it nicer when you use it with someone you don´t know. Being extremely informal with people you just met feels rude in Buenos Aires too.

Here´s another excerpt:

If you are a little overweight your nickname might be “el gordo”, or if you have a dark complexion they might call you “el negro” or if you happen to be of Polish descent, “el polaco”. 

What the book doesn´t say is that if you are really overweight no one will call you “gordo”, or if you have Peruvian descent your nickname will not be for sure “Peruano”. As I wrote in another post, language is never about grammar. The control on the language is a result of a social situation. The more social prejudice against something, the more careful you have to be when talking about it. In Buenos Aires, having a dark complexion or being of Polish decent has no social implications and there is no prejudice formed against it.

So, in Buenos Aires, you can be extremely polite or rude just as in any other part in the world and it is not always clear for a foreigner whom you can talk to in a certain way and whom you can´t so ¡Ojo! with the use (and abuse) of slang because you might get involved in an uncomfortable situation.

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