Friday, August 04, 2006

Even better

After twenty-two years of marriage, you'd think I'd have learned to ask my wife about things. Perhaps this is why I'm in the casa del perro so often.

I knew that she had spent six months living with a Catalan family in Castellon de la Plana back in our college days, but did I think of asking her first whether she had ever heard the valediction "May no new thing arise" (que no hayan novedades) when she was there? No.

Turns out she had not. I suppose that if that fine little phrase is genuine at all (which I'm quite uncertain about at this point, though I'm sure hoping it is), it may have simply fallen out of fashion -- perhaps just as the once-universal complimentary close "your humble and obedient servant" disappeared from English letters by the late 1800's. Or maybe it was always more of a Castilian than a Catalan thing.

Interestingly, though, she also told me that novedades, which is translated "new thing" in the O'Brian novels, is more properly translated as "novelties." You know, as in "new and improved." So the valediction really means something more like "May no New Coke* arise."

Now that's a wish I can wholeheartedly agree with.

* For those who are too young to remember, about 25 years ago the Coca-Cola folks tried to replace their flagship time-tested favorite soda with some glop their marketeers dreamed up, which they called New Coke. Disaster ensued. It lasted only a few weeks, until they shamefacedly brought back the formula everyone loved, as Classic Coke. As far as I can tell, New Coke was taken out back and shot, probably together with the marketeers.