Sanity in the World?

Into all lives, a little Sanity must fall.

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Location: Michigan, United States

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Odd Questions, Honest Answers

I was going to make this a light blogging day, but wanted to write a bit on an article I read in the Detroit Free Press. I ran across an article by Susan Ager on the March 12th Edition that caught my eye and have been holding on to it so I can write about it, but haven't had the time.


I had the time, I just kept forgetting.
What are you going to do...bend my dog tags?
Sorry, old Army joke.

As I was saying, the article had a very interesting concept that is being done already in Orange County,CA.

It's called, Ask a Mexican.

Susan Ager writes:

The "Ask a Mexican" column appears in OC Weekly, published each Thursday in Orange County, in southern California, where immigration is a hot issue. The column encourages readers to ask anything, and they do: Why do Mexicans sell oranges at freeway offramps? What's with the Virgin of Guadalupe everywhere? Why do Mexicans pronounce "shower" as "chower" and "chicken" as "shicken?"

Answering these questions with a salsa of honesty, affection and irreverence is Gustavo Arellano, a 27-year-old fourth-generation local with a master's in Latin Studies from UCLA. He told a Los Angeles Times reporter recently that Orange County is the "Ellis Island of the 21st Century" and said: "The people who write in -- they have this preconceived notion of what a Mexican is. I answer their question, but in a way that's either going to flip the stereotype or going to explode it."

I find this is a very unique and interesting concept.

To many people assume they know what another person or another nationality is like so they don't bother to ask the questions to find out what they are missing in thier knowledge. Plus there is always something of every nationality someone will have a question about but is too afraid or embarrassed to ask, so it remains unanswered. This column allows for greater communication and understanding between different nationalities.

I agree that we need this, and would love to see it expanded:

Ask anyone.......

Ask an Arab.

Ask an Armenian.

Ask a Canadian.

Ask a Catholic.

Ask a Baptist.

Ask a Pakistani.

We could open this thing even wider: Ask a rabbi, a mortician, a single mom. Ask a lesbian.

But it would mainly give safe space for simple questions across the lines that divide us. About food and hair, about behavior and attitudes.

Imagine the information we miss out in finding out about the different cultures and nationalities because we are to afraid to ask or embarrassed that what we say may seem ignorant or foolish.

Let me clear it up for you right quick.
If you don't know the answer you are ignorant. Until you learn the answer you are ignorant (uninstructed or uninformed) of the truth. Asking questions is always the best way to learn.

One reader wondered: "What is it with Mexicans and jaywalking? No crosswalks in Mexico?" Arellano's answer began: "Try no streets."

Why do Mexicans pronounce “shower” as “chower” but “chicken” as “shicken”?

Dear Chino,
This column has provided readers with many indicators of the differences between recently arrived Mexicans and los que have lived here for generations: skin tone, car purchases, whether the Mexican in question flushes his soiled toilet paper or tosses it in the trash can. Another sure-fire way is the ch/sh phonetic test. Proper Spanish doesn’t feature a “sh” sound (known among linguists as a linguapalatal fricative), so Mexicans pronounce English words using an “sh” sound with the harsher “ch” (known as a lingualveolar affricate). However, many indigenous Mexican tongues use linguapalatal fricatives. The most famous example is in the original pronunciation of Mexico: as said in Nahuatl, the word sounds like “meh-shee-ko.” The Spaniards couldn’t pronounce the middle consonant, though, instead substituting a guttural “j” (as in “Meh-hee-ko”) early in the Conquest. They killed most of Mexico’s Indians in the ensuing decades, but the indigenous “sh” sound never wholly disappeared: if you do hear a Mexican using “sh,” it’s probably a Mexican Indian. So next time you hear a Mexican ask for a “Shinese shicken sandwish with Sheddar sheese,” VATO, por favor don’t shortle.

As with anything you will have the jerks and the idiots who will bring racism and bigotry into the questions, but filtering through some of them, I do find some of the honest questions to be interesting and the answers to them intriguing.

It is too bad we don't have more of questions and honest answers for every nationality and ethnicity that we have questions about. It would go a long way in understanding our cultures and each other.