Monday, January 05, 2009

The Peril's Dictionary: Casquivana (n., Sp.)

"Empty helmet," i.e., airheaded young girl, whose supercervical appendage appears to have been supplied by the Deity for purposes purely cosmetic. From Old French casque ("helmet," "skull") and Latin vānus ("empty," "pointless").


Okay, I have to confess two things. (1) I completely made up the etymology; I don't know what the actual etymology is and have no intention of looking it up because I already know I like mine better. (2) I'm not sure I have the meaning of the word exactly right. Probably real close, though, since Mr. Bennet uses that word to describe Lydia and Kitty when they are talking very silly girl-talk about the officers.

By the way, there are those among my Gentle Readers who would say that casquivana sounds like an excellent word for any person who has been known to forget his computer at home, to go home to get the computer, to get distracted by something else at home he had also forgotten to do, and to return to work only to discover, upon opening the trunk, that he had once again forgotten the computer. By this, these Gentle Readers would mean me, since I have done that on three separate occasions. I maintain, however, that I do not meet the definition of casquivana as given above, because of the last half of the definition: when God was installing what sits on top of this particular red neck, His purposes were clearly not cosmetic.


This is, by the way, a real word, and I do think it means basically "airhead." I'm reading Pride and Prejudice in Spanish at the moment for practice, and I camped out last night at Java Dave's to put my feet up and read away. It was especially convenient to do so because Daniela and Daniel were both there for most of the evening, and so every five minutes or so I would interrupt their conversation with something like this:

MR. PIERCE: Hey, Daniel, what does pesar mean?

DANIEL: It means "to weigh."

MR. PIERCE: That's what I thought, but that doesn't make any sense. Is there maybe an idiom "a pesar de"?

(Daniel can't think of one but Daniela steps helpfully in.)

DANIELA: Oh, that's right, "a pesar de" means "even though."

MR. PIERCE [checks the book and confirms that "even though" works in context; then, gratefully...]: Perfect, that makes perfect sense now, thanks!

So I get to the speech where Mr. Bennet replies to his wife's assertion that all of their children are clever by saying, "...I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish." And the Spanish makes sense up until the very end, where Mr. Bennet concludes, "...que son extraordinariamente casquivanas."

I didn't recognize the word casquivanas, but it sounded like an absolutely delightful word, a word that certainly sounded likely to mean "empty helmet" = "airhead" -- and a word likely to be highly useful to me personally, as well. You see, Anya and Kinya have both gone all ethnic on me, but have chosen different ethnic allegiances. Anya has decided that she is German and pretends to be highly offended if I call her Russian (and when I call her "Kazakh" her outrage is no pretense). Kinya objects to being called anything but "Russian," and as part of this policy she automatically threatens to punch me "v glas [in the eyes], Papa, v glas!" anytime I address her in Spanish as if she were Mexican.

Which means that I intend to have a very great deal of fun indeed calling across the room toward Kinya, "Oy, casquivana!"

But I thought I would just check with the experts to make sure I knew what the word meant and wasn't abusing it. Turns out, though, that neither Daniel nor Daniela, nor for that matter Veronica (because I stopped by this morning on the way to work to check) can ever remember hearing the word casquivana. Well, as far as I'm concerned, that means it can mean anything I want it to mean -- and it now means "empty helmet," in the metaphorical sense of the definition with which I started this post.

And to end this post, I hereby provide an illustration of the ultimate "empty helmet" chick:


At 11:22 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

I know there should be a comment from my handcuffs, er, wife here eventuallly, but I keep forgetting to tell her about it! Stay tuned...


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