How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The cultural mashup dictionary: Carwashero

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


It's a term that's in the news today, so it makes sense to include it as a dictionary entry.

Just as the sound of it suggests, a "carwashero" is someone who works at a car wash, otherwise known in Spanish as a "lava coches", i.e. one who washes cars.

Carwasheros are making headlines this afternoon because they've made some history in Los Angeles, making the city the nation's first to have three unionized car washes. Workers at two South L.A. car washes, the Vermont Car Wash and Nava's Car Wash, have won union contracts, joining a third car unionized car wash in Santa Monica.

The carwasheros, mostly immigrants from Latin America, voted last year to join the United Steelworkers union, organizing as part of a larger effort  that has been trying to curb worker exploitation in what is typically a low-paid and often hazardous occupation.

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The cultural mashup dictionary: Gentefication

Photo by Texas T/Flickr (Creative Commons)


I first heard the term "gentefication" uttered a few years ago by the proprietor of Eastside Luv, a Boyle Heights wine bar that opened on First Street during the height of the real estate boom and rising fear of gentrification in the historic seat of Mexican American Los Angeles.

At the time, locals were becoming worried (they still are) over encroaching development from the west, including the still-standing plans for an upscale redevelopment of the neighborhood's vast Wyvernwood Gardens apartment complex. In the midst of this, Guillermo Uribe, a young Mexican American investor with L.A. roots farther east, had taken over and renovated the former Metropolitan, a former mariachi bar across from Mariachi Plaza. At the time, the corner's best view was of Gold Line construction.

Some locals were worried about the new wine bar, too. Even as a Latino-owned business, was it a harbinger of higher rents? It has since become a popular gathering spot for a mostly second-generation crowd, many of them professionals with Eastside roots. In an email last week, after reconnecting with Uribe over a KPCC radio segment about Eastside Luv's regular MorrisseyOke nights, he used the term again:

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The cultural mashup dictionary: ¡Tricotrí!

Anyone remember walking up to a house on Halloween night as a child, goodie bag in hand, knocking on the door and shouting this?

 

Thanks to @rainmaker_mike and @ergeekgodess for tweeting the first pronunciation of "trick or treat" as it has been hollered by generations of Latino kids making the rounds every Halloween in the U.S. Here's one of their tweets from this morning:

 



LOL, so true! RT @rainmaker_mike@ergeekgoddess: How do you say Happy Halloween in Spanish? ¡Tricotri!

This is what "trick or treat" sounds like phonetically to Spanish-speaking ears, and thus how it comes out when Spanish-dependent parents (and their kids) roll up to the door, their little Spidermen and Disney princesses screaming "¡Tricotrí!" I distinctly remember shouting this outside a doorway in Bell once when I was five or six, dressed in a mummy costume made from an old sheet - and thinking, at the time, that this was actually how you said "trick or treat."

I got candy, so it worked.

Have an entry to suggest? Multi-American’s cultural mashup dictionary is an evolving collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of that fluid lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.

Recent entries have included Wi-5GooglearTwittear and Feisbuk (lots of social media) and perhaps my favorite to date, Tweecanos. The series started off with the meaning and etymology of the term 1.5 generation. Feel free to post new suggestions below.

And Happy Halloween.

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The cultural mashup dictionary: Wi-5?

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Overheard in a public library in South L.A., this language gem is what "wi-fi" can easily sound like to Spanish speakers' ears. There are, of course, those who prefer to turn the term into Spanish altogether, as in "el wifi" (pronounced "wee fee"), but say it out loud and it makes perfect sense: "el wi-five."

This latest entry to the evolving cultural mashup dictionary comes courtesy of blogger, library worker and avid tweeter Art of @Chicano_Soul, who was on duty at the Junipero Serra Branch Library on South Main St. this week when he heard a girl nearby say it. He tweeted:

Sorry. No free "Wi-5" (@ The Circulation Desk)

Thanks for sharing, Art.

Multi-American’s cultural mashup dictionary is an evolving collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of that fluid lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.

Recent entries have included Googlear and Twittear and Feisbuk (lots of social media) and perhaps my favorite to date, Tweecanos. The series started off with the meaning and etymology of the term 1.5 generation.

Have an entry to suggest? Feel free to post it below.

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The cultural mashup dictionary: Tweecanos

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


I've never met @xicano007, but a tweet from this East L.A. blogger and sports card collector brings us yet another entry for our evolving dictionary of cultural mashup terms: tweecanas and tweecanos.

Here's how it was used, in a tweet from yesterday mentioning an upcoming performance by Aztlan Underground:

RT @xicano007: Next Saturday at the BLVD in BOYLE HEIGHTS join @Aztlanug @laloalcaraz & some tweecanas/tweecanos for a night of rebeldia

It's perfect. Not sure if @xicano007 coined it, but who cares? Plus it sounds like a great show.

Multi-American's cultural mashup dictionary kicked off this spring. It's a collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of the evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.

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