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November 5, 2005


One of my students asked on Friday if we could have a fiesta at the end of the year. Of course - complete with a pinata? This seemed to throw him - is it my stereotype or his monolingualism? He used a Spanish word to convey the idea of a party. Should that necessarily have conjured up an image in my mind of a pinata? I actually had a flash of memory in that moment. We had a pinata at one of the BM's early birthdays - I think it was when she turned 4, but maybe it was her 5th. ;-)

The kids were out of control, ohmygosh I had to go wading in there and holler like a drill sargeant to keep anyone from getting clocked! It was an awful lot of fun, but the moment it began it was clear there was potential for an accident. Whoa! So, this is flashing through my mind, as I'm also wondering, how does he not associate a Spanish word with its cultural event? Is this because English has colonized the term so completely it's original semiotic relation has been severed?

Posted by Steph at November 5, 2005 3:38 PM


Ahh, perhaps we have done it again. Taking a word from another language (fiesta) and changing it slightly for English interpretation (party on dude, but alas where is the piñata?) As the word changes hands (or ears most likely) the exact richness of where the word came from is altered. Sometimes the familiarity of the word becomes so second nature that we do not associate it with the place of origin.

Do some of these sound familiar?

Pro bono – Latin – done or donated without charge, free
Faux pas – French – a social blunder
Carte Blanche – French – unrestricted power to act on one’s own
Carpe Diem – Latin – seize the day
Bona Fide – Latin – in good faith, genuine

But yet when you use them do you stop to think of their origin? I’m sure some loss is the result of passing it on through the generations OR it may have been our good friend the “MEDIA” (who has the their writers to thank for the new use of the word) who needed a new way to spice things up.

Let’s look at what else we use the word fiesta for:
For college football you have the popular Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (no piñata there)~
Then there is the famous Six Flags Fiesta Texas location (probably a lot of piñatas there) ~ and Then the ever so brightly colored Fiestaware dishes (my friend lovers her set).

And when we look a little bit deeper into a word – “the piñata that usually reminds us of Mexican and Hispanic heritage actually originated from Italy.” (http://www.hpl.lib.tx.us/youth/cinco_pinata.html#The%20History%20of%20the%20Pinata)

Posted by: Valeria at November 5, 2005 8:51 PM

Hello--Steph twisted my arm and had me write in here:)(jk) so here i go....
First off, I do think some things are taking a little to literal. It doesnt make a differnce to me, but was the person who asked that question of hispanic or mexican culture? Or maybe he just liked the word better. I mean some words to some people mean something different to another. IS he a senior? Maybe he watns to graduate with a bang and "fiesta" sounds more interesting then just a plain "party".
Many things come to mind, and i am not quite sure where to go with this, but I do see where Valeria is coming from also. The pinata thing, i can associate now with birthday parties in my family. I am not from mexican or hispanic heritage, and yet my little cousins love pinatas at their parties. I dont know if its the fascination of the smacking it with a stick, or watching the candy and going crazy trying to get as much as you can get.
When i hear Fiesta, I dont automatically think pinata. I think a huge get together, with lots of laughs and loud music. I mean it would be great to throw in sombreros, and pinatas, and have margaritas, but do we need all that to have a fiesta? I dont know if i am just going off in a tangent, but i do think, us, as a society, sometimes take things to seriously.
I know i talk a lot about Gender, but do you think maybe this is a factor? Men take things and keep them pretty simple, while females tend to think into things more. Females, love to talk, and communicate in many different ways. Maybe Steph, wanted to know what he meant by fiesta and just said what she said, to see what he really meant. Steph, what did u mean by that? Or is it that you just associated "Fiesta" with a pinata. Things can be simple, others can be complex, that is why communcation, is so important!
Ok i think i said enough, this is an interesting subject, ill keep on checking in to see what people say:)

Posted by: Tayla at November 6, 2005 1:43 PM

Speaking of taking things literally (!), both responses so far have focused on the semantics of what I wrote. Anyone notice the links I posted? Do those choices bring anything up? That's directed at you mass media types. :-) For the public speaking folk, how can we have a public sphere if our words don't conjure the same images?

Posted by: steph at November 6, 2005 3:17 PM

I don't know if this is relevent to anyone else, but have you ever noticed that when people use these terms or quotes from a seperate language, it makes them appear more... intelligent? or educated? or even more cultured? I see it this way, i could say, "yes, lets have a party, that would be fun" Or, "Lets have a fiesta, that would be exciting!" By using longer words, and a word from a different culture, i spiced up the sentence. I made at least one more person consider it. Same goes for shopping, that cute pair of shoes you have been looking at are expensive, but you really like them. Your friend says " carpe diem!" just buy them!. This makes you laugh, or simply consider what shes saying, it's a lot more effective then just saying.."hey sieze the day and buy them" So whether or not we are associating the term with its culture, we are using it for a reason. Most of the time it is because you have heard it somewhere else, thought it sounded good, and decided to use it yourself. Bottom line is you want people to hear what you are saying, so why not say it a different way and get their attention?

Posted by: AJ at November 6, 2005 4:48 PM

Hmm...as much as I would love to think of some scientific logic for this I think using "different" words for things is the "cool" thing to do for our generation. Today teens and young adults are constantly making up new words. I, myself, even partake in this. Food is now called "grub", relaxing is called "chillin", parents are now called "rents" and for some people parties are now called "social gatherings" "fiestas" or "hangouts". In regards to this kid asking to have a "fiesta", could it be because "party" has such a bad connotation today? When teens and young adults here the word party, we automatically think, drugs, sex, and alcohol. Perhaps, this kid, chose to use the word "fiesta" to persuade you to say yes, rather than saying "party" and you having a bad image. I can remember through high school and middle school that parties not longer existed like they did in elementary school. In elementary school we would constantly have Halloween parties, pizza parties, and holiday parties; however in middle school and high school we would do the same thing, except "party" wasn’t an accepted word. It we were having a "party" it meant we weren’t learning or doing something educational. So in a nut shell: I think by using different words (similar to the original words) we can change the connotation of the original word. A fiesta sounds like a Spanish learning experience where as a party just sounds like an uneducational experience.

Posted by: Katrina at November 7, 2005 1:35 PM

So, could we say there's a certain power in word choice....whether it conveys an individual's degree of "coolness" or might be more persuasive than an alternative? Public speakers gotta keep this in mind; mass media analysts - is trying to apply Katrina's idea that certain uses of language (as shown by choice of word) actually changes meaning something that might help us better describe and explain "what it is" that some folk think the media is "doing" to us?

Posted by: steph at November 8, 2005 5:28 PM

Jimminy crickets, must I follow up with a detailed essay like the comments above me? If you're looking for anything intellectual or insightful from Burdamania, I am clearly in the wrong box. I won't bother reading the other comments so I can claim some originality I guess.

I can't remember who proposed the fiesta, other than whoever did it was sitting near me at the time, I think it was either Luke or "Mk" (not sure if it's ok for me to mention other names in here). Not sure if there was any meaning behind that, other than we say party all the time in class, perhaps a little creative blood that day? Spanish is def. mainstream in our language, but most of the time I think people just mix it in to make them sound smarter than they are (Is saying por favor {I could care less if I spell it right or not} really easier than saying please)? To quote Seinfeld once again:

GEORGE: Salsa is now the number one condiment in America.

JERRY: You know why? Because people like to say "salsa." "Excuse me, do
you have salsa?" "We need more salsa." "Where is the salsa? No salsa?"

GEORGE: You know it must be impossible for a Spanish person to order
seltzer and not get salsa. (Angry) "I wanted seltzer, not salsa."

JERRY: "Don't you know the difference between seltzer and salsa?? You
have the seltezer after the salsa!"

My point is, the vast majority of people my age that say things like "carpe diem" and "faux pa" are just showoffs and want to appear like they know something. They know how to be posers, that's for sure. Seriously Steph, if you ever hear any crap like that from me in a speech, stop the speech, stand up, and ask me the definition, then say how much of a fraud I am. Hell, do it to anyone else if you want! For me, I care about getting my point across; a little eloquence is nice once in awhile if required in a formal function but in casual conversation, phrases like that irk me.

Wurd life,


Posted by: Burda at November 15, 2005 2:07 AM

Par Tay!

This is a very serious topic, I mean what if some day we stole so many words from other cultures we created our own language?!?! ...Oh wait that already happened.

But I do agree with the idea of a fiesta AND a piñata.

Posted by: Mark Moniz at November 16, 2005 12:44 PM

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