Friends, business is business
A multilingual article with lots of italics.
By José María Echarte (n+1).
In this quaint country of ours we have the increasingly widespread custom of using the language of Shakespeare when we could perfectly well express ourselves in the language of Cervantes. Maybe it’s globalisation. Or maybe it’s the ease with which English can make a verb out of anything. Or it’s the compulsory viewing of television series in their original version. Whatever it is, I can tell you straight way that I won’t become a grammar Nazi (oops) or a syntax Taliban (oops, I did it again). Among other reasons because, as you observe, one is not free from being swept away from the tide towards using English and using terms falling outside the holy (perhaps no longer so holy) walls of our royal academy of the Spanish language.
But even beyond this fad of using English for the sake of concision, or because there we are using a direct quote from English, or even out of snobbery to epater le bourgeois (because everybody knows all of this is très difficile for le bourgeois), this practice has a more perverse side whose objective is not to surprise through verbiage as much as it is–soyons honêts– to deceive. This is how all around us we see lofts that are actually plain apartments –bad ones, without walls (in some cases in not even for the baths, c’est vrai). Layers which are no more than piles from the corner shop. Curators who use their name in English instead going by the Spanish, comisarios, and, the hilt, internships, a nice-sounding English label for good old unpaid labour and -naturally!- much better sounding than the awful becarías, pasantías or meritoriajes, so deeply rooted in our homeland’s own collective identity (the irony switch is turned on there).
The English terms look better on paper, of course. Actually, there are just the same old thing in the new garb of a different language. Without having to look too much into the matter, we discover that what is being called an internship is usually the equivalent — quel glamour— of a poorly paid, precarious position in the black economy. Only the venue is different. Instead of a hidden industrial shed on the outskirts of town, it is a relatively poshly designed trendy &cool architecture studio.
And while this camouflage is poor, this selling of toxic smokescreen consisting of dressing up what as the naked truth revolts us, what’s worse is not so much the terminological redefinition. Renaming reality transforms it to its dystopian limits. To be clear, while exploited people on work ‘scholarships’ were kept literally and metaphorically hidden, the unpaid interns who are showing their commitment to the company are flaunted shamelessly and immorally by those who are happy to say that their sweatshop is an international experience.
As those of you who are not devotees to stultifying wishful thinking will understand, this fantasy-land will take its toll. The time will come. Under-budgeting, dumping, and other marvellous words do not aim to shroud anything but instead clearly reveal that something smells rotten in a workplace where the execrable attitudes that harm everyone are not only rejected and disdained but also tolerated and even applauded surprisingly laxly.
At the end of the day, we aren’t innocent. Clearly, in this country, business has always been business.
The bad thing now is that business is accepted by the royal academy of the Spanish language under the spelling bisnes. As if this were normal. Maybe I’m getting old or I’m a trade union leader who isn’t at all amused by the burlesque of slaves and interns. But hey, working for free…I wouldn’t even do it for friends.