I see someone carrying a bag with a Spanish brand name on it –Massimo Dutti?– followed by the word ‘since’ and a year number. I cringe, almost outwardly. A web in Spanish announces the new collection ‘Be my Valentine by Bershka’ and I double cringe (I heard someone described on Tele5 as a very intelligent person: ‘one of the few people in Spain who can pronounce Bershka’…). Although Zara designs always fit me very poorly, I have nothing against Inditex (who, for the absent-minded, also owns Dutti and Bershka); I am, however, stubbornly prejudiced against linguistic snobbery. I find the snooty (miss)use of ‘since’ and ‘by’ particularly obnoxious.
What’s new about this? Nothing, really. I just wonder whether it’s just me or, whether all non-native English philologists are plagued by the same prejudice. I see people on the street with silly T-shirts carrying a stupid message in English and I have to stop myself from challenging them: would you wear a T-shirt like that in a language you speak? Do you actually know what that means? Perhaps I should feign extreme surprise or disgust and leave them feeling there’s something wrong with the darn T-shirt… (A –male– student in my Department wears a T-shirt announcing ‘I’m still a good investment’ against the background of a graphic showing financial heavy loses, but that’s ok: it’s witty and he knows exactly why he’s wearing that…).
Back to ‘since’ and ‘by’. I don’t understand what is wrong with the word ‘desde’ (or Catalan ‘des de’). Does it sound old-fashioned (Vda. de Pérez e Hijos, desde 1886)? Is it a paralyzing fear that people in, say, Finland, will be mystified by what ‘desde’ followed by a year number might mean? As I gather, everyone has learned the meaning of ‘since’ by seeing this word between a brand name and a date in labels in English. How come I don’t know how to write ‘since’ in 12 different languages in this global world of ours? (Nokia ***** 1865? Yes, 1865!)
‘By’ is a slightly different kettle of fish. It is, of course, short for ‘designed by’ and I realise that Spanish ‘por’ fits only awkwardly the sense of the phrase. ‘Vueling by Custo,’ in reference to the designs produced to decorate some of this not-so-low-cost airline’s planes by Catalan designer Custo(dio) Dalmau, is a particularly mindboggling form of linguistic snobbery with an attempt at wit (how does Vueling sound to a native English-speaker?). ‘Un vestido de Gaultier,’ however, still sounds to me better than ‘Un vestido by Gaultier’ though I know that soon we’ll all speak like Tamara Falcó –on a bad day. ‘Rihanna by Armani Underwear’ as seen in a web in Spanish overwhelms me, as this means ‘En esta campaña la cantante Rihanna nos vende ropa interior diseñada por Armani’ (or was Rihanna herself designed by Armani in his underwear???). Are ads for perfurme to be blamed for this unfortunate trendy use of ‘by’? When did ‘de Paco Rabanne’ become ‘by Paco Rabanne’ in Spain? I seem to have noticed only recently…
End of today’s entry for The Joys of English Literature ‘por’ Sara Martín, ‘desde’ 2010 (as you can see, I’ve been marking essays all day long, needed to think of something else…)