Fear of the Word

These are bad times for the word, gray days for a philologist. The main problem is not the abundance of vulgar expressions, which can even be revealing in a linguistic and sociological analysis. The saddest thing is the decline of articulate speech, the fear of pronouncing words, the expanding silence. “A man who is a man doesn’t talk too much,” a vendor told me this morning when I insisted on knowing if the cupcakes were guava or coconut. Later I received a grunt when I inquired of an official about her office’s opening hours. To top off the day, I got nothing more than shrugged shoulders when asking where the bathroom was in a coffee shop.

What is happening with the language? Why this aversion to expressing oneself in a coherent manner with well-structured phrases? The tendency to monosyllables is quite worrying, as is the use of signs instead of sentences with subjects and predicates. Who said so many people talking is a sign of weakness? Do adjectives show laziness? The phenomenon is widespread among young men because in the macho code loquacity is at odds with virility. A punch, a sneer, or simple babbling, have replaced fluid and well enunciated conversation.

“I’m not going to discuss it…” boasted a man, yesterday, to a teenager trying to tell him something. Meanwhile, the latter was shouting, and instead of using words he was waving his hands around as a warning, the preferred code of slaps. The worst thing is that for the vast majority who witnessed the altercation, that individual was doing the right thing: don’t talk too much and get on with the fight. Because for many, talking is giving in, arguing is a sign of weakness, trying to convince people is cowardly. Instead, they prefer shouts and insults, perhaps an inheritance from so much aggressive political discourse. They opt for the almost animal growl and the slap.

These are bad times for the word, party days for silence.


8 thoughts on “Fear of the Word


    YOANI – The Film – by Open View Productions

    Dear Supporters,

    Since the beginning of the project we’ve been aiming for A-list talent as part of the team. In these past months we’ve been a little silent. Why?

    Well… we’ve been reading scripts and meeting with writers. All the work and patience has paid off. We are proud to announce the writers who are officially writing our film… drum roll please…


    ROGELIO MARTINEZ – Born in Cuba, immigrated to the US in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. Winner of the Princess Grace Award, for excellence in playwriting. Has received commissions from the Mark Taper Forum, the Atlantic Theater Company, the Arden Theater Company, Denver Center Theater, and South Coast Repertory.

    Producer Gil Junger, Bobby Moresco ~ with his OSCAR :-) ~ and Rogelio Martinez.




    THE ECONOMIST: The Cuban connection – Cuban relations with North Korea

    THIS is not the best time to be a confidante of Jang Sung Taek, the uncle of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, who was executed in Pyongyang this week. One man who is apparently already counting the cost of close association with Mr Jang is the North Korean ambassador to Cuba.
    Ambassador Jon Yong Jin is a veteran diplomat who boasted what were considered, until very recently, impeccable credentials: he is married to Mr Jang’s elder sister. South Korean officials say he was ordered back home on around December 6th. (Another diplomat to be recalled to Pyongyang was North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, a nephew of Mr Jang’s.) Mr Jon’s appointment in February 2012, together with a high-profile five-day visit in June 2013 to Havana by the head of the North Korean army’s general staff, General Kim Kyok Sik, had been seen as a sign of closer alliance between two enduring communist powers.

    Under Raul Castro (who formally took over the Cuban presidency in 2008), military and commercial co-operation appears to have increased. The nature of the relationship was dramatically exposed in July, when the Panamanian authorities intercepted a North Korean ship carrying arms from Cuba. The ship had plied the same route at least once before. Cuba initially described the intercepted cargo as nothing more than aid in the form of sugar. When weapons were discovered under the bags of sugar, the authorities in Havana then attempted to dismiss the cache as “obsolete” items that were en route to North Korea for repairs (the UN prohibits all arms transfers to North Korea).

    But a thorough inspection suggests that was not the case. The vessel was carrying 25 shipping containers with military equipment inside. The cargo included two Mig-21 jet fighters. The jet fuel inside their tanks, along with maintenance logs, indicated that they had recently been flown. Ammunition and 15 apparently new MiG engines were also discovered. Panama’s foreign minister, Fernando Nuñez Fabrega, says he believes the shipment was “part of a major deal” between the two countries. The United Nations is preparing a report on the episode.



  3. Yoani’s post is sheer brilliance.

    The dictatorship hasn’t a chance. There will be an explosion of expression when the machine is swept aside.

    I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Wow, why am I not surprised, you missed the entire point of Yoani’s post. Actually, it’s about nothing but the influence of the C brothers.

  5. What an interesting post. Real life observation, intelligent reflection. Tells something about the cuban people.

    And – surprise – not even one C word!


    MINNEAPOLIS POST: From Havana to Quito: A refugee’s fight for LGBT rights in Cuba – by William Wheeler

    For Alberto Garcia Martinez’s 15th birthday, way back in 1974, his parents gave him money to go shopping in Havana’s city center. He was subsequently picked up in a police sweep targeting gays. For an effeminate teen who did not yet realize he was gay, the experience was both terrifying and confusing.

    At his court appearance, his mother, a high-ranking Cuban bureaucrat, sat next to him, weeping out of shame.

    We spoke in the office of Asylum Access Ecuador, a legal aid group helping the thousands of Cuban refugees in Ecuador’s capital, where Garcia says he fled after being persecuted in Cuba for his advocacy on behalf of gay rights. His story offers a window into the ongoing struggles of the LGBT community that challenges Cuba’s official narrative of progress on the issue. It also highlights the reluctance of Ecuador’s own government to recognize the limits of political dissent in Cuba.

    Today his niece, Mariela Castro, is an internationally recognized advocate for LGBT rights (in May she was honored with a gay equality award in Philadelphia, but not everyone was happy with the decision: Wendy Iriepa, a transgender woman and famous Cuban LGBT activist who used to work with Castro, took issue with her portrayal of progress in Cuba: “Everything is fake, it’s false,” she told the Miami Herald. “The gays still feel repression. Mariela sells to the world the same image the Cuban government does.”)

    In Garcia’s case, the court sent him to a “rehabilitation center.” It was a searing experience — he worked to project an air of strength to avoid being raped by older men as some of the other boys were — but also one that inspired a concern for gay rights.

    After he was released, Garcia finished high school, married a woman (to please his mother), and had two daughters. He joined the art and theater community, fell in love with a man, and divorced his wife. He found a job as an artistic director at a popular nightclub, and he had dreams of studying in Colombia, where his boyfriend was from, and becoming a film director. For his first subject, he began a documentary focused on the plight of gays in Cuba.

    Although he didn’t have a press pass, he started interviewing people and filming police roundups and crackdowns on gay clubs. When it was completed, his boyfriend returned to Colombia, where they planned to screen it.

    In February 2011, as he awaited a response from the Colombian embassy, Garcia threw a party. He lived with his parents in a neighborhood that was home to many Americans. He had often tried to engage his American neighbors, but they usually declined, saying they didn’t want to get him in trouble with Cuban authorities.

    His friend was held for 10 days and then deported. Garcia’s mother was able to secure his release after just two days through a friend in the government. But the police subsequently searched his family’s home and found his documentary material. His family kicked him out. His employment contract at the nightclub was canceled, and he couldn’t rent a flat because he kept getting disqualified by background checks.

    He soon found himself out on the street. At the time, he says, he still didn’t know what he was being investigated for — did the authorities suspect he was an American informant? Or was it his documentary material? Then he found out that the investigation concerned “subversive propaganda.”

    Officials told him he would be unable to leave the country. Garcia was constantly subjected to interrogations. Eventually he got involved with Damas en Blanco, a group of women dissidents who initially formed to stand up for their imprisoned sons and husbands, and he started his own group advocating for gay-rights.



  7. Hundreds of Cubas were arrested, beaten, stoned, tear gassed, homes invaded and destroyed for trying to observe human rights day. There have been serious injuries.

    Most of these Cubans did not even celebrate human rights in public.

    There sole crime was to invite friends over to their house to celebrate human rights in private.


    As in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, the foreign press corps (BBC, Reuters, AP) is largely complicit in the dictator’s crimes and only print Castro approved propaganda.

  8. I wonder?

    Could this have anything to do with Castro shutting his people up for 55 years?

    Of course, the Cuban pions were allowed to shout “Viva Fidel” and “Be like Che” and “Death to Kennedy” and “Socialism or Death”.

    A three word maximum, while listening to Fidel and Che mentally masturbate for 7 hours.

    Just never allowed to say what was on their minds. Like “Dear God, when will you deliver us from Castro and Che and their Gestapo”

    Just shut up and follow orders. Like the pions under Hitler and Stalin.

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