Two days ago, in a local bookstore, I found these two books: “Modernet de Merda” (“Hipster” in “negative slang”) and “Yo fui a EGB” (“I went to the old schooling system”). So, why did I buy these books? I bought the one of EGB (Educación General Básica, or Basic General Education; which was the old schooling system in the 80s) just because of nostalgia. And the Hipster one I bought it out of lame curiosity, to know what a local hipster does… (Later on I kind of regretted the decision… local hipsters are… too weird for my standards!)
Yo fui a EGB is like a small dictionary of objects and things people who studied under that system used to have. It also displays a way of doing things that has long been forgotten by so many. Thanks to this book, many memories came back (including ice creams, manga, films, TV series, computers…) But I found out that there were things that were missing in the equation. The book did not include all the artifacts I used to surround myself with. (And here came the shiver throughout my spine!) This book is cool, but it does not really include all the geekery I had (or still have stored in my old room). It is a good example for exercising your memory, remembering the bullies at school, but it lacks all the geekery I was used to. I must say that thanks to it, already forgotten stuff from my childhood came as a flash into my mind: OMG! I was such a geek! (+ with nerdy tendencies)
Modernet de Merda is like a guidebook to become a local hipster. The problem I have with the book is the clearly derogatory title it has: “modernet” could be translated as “fashionista,” but it literally refers to “a little modern guy”. “De Merda” means “shit”. And it is clearly derogatory. Even if local hipsters assure you that the wording is “cool,” I find it misleading. So, we could translate the wording in English, trying to be literal, as “Shit fashionista”. But in fact, this wording refers to hipsters! (Thus my astonishment!) It seems that they refer to themselves using this negative wording, but they take it “cool” (while those who are not hipsters are taking it, obviously, as very negative). I must admit that, years outside my own country make some stuff difficult to swallow. And this type of wording is one of them. Who on Earth would like to be called like that? Why not just using the word “hipster”?? Wouldn’t it be easier?? (Who knows… but there is an English-word-phobia that makes folks use weird combinations instead of using easy words like “hipster”, and this just makes things more difficult.) This guidebook explains all the ins and outs of local hipsters in Barcelona, and it also includes a test to know if you are one. (The test is quite stupid, btw.)
Thanks to these books I’ve discovered two important things:
- That I was born a geek, and even if back in the 80s people didn’t use any word in Catalonia for it, I was one, with strong “nerdy” tendencies (you only need to look at my fashion and my hobbies at the time).
- I cannot relate myself to modern Catalan geeks/nerds at all! The ways I am used to… are from the US through Japan!!
Does it matter? (Well, not really… unless you want to go out from your safety cave and try to socialize out there into the local wilderness when you pay a visit…)
American Nerd is a good book which explains quite clearly the story of nerds in the US. The funny thing about this book, is that I got part of its magic through my experience living in Tokyo. It does sound paradoxical, but reading the book for me was more like acknowledging the facts more than discovering anything “extremely” new (I already did so while in Tokyo). The surprise came with the two other books above! While I can relate to local stuff of the 80s and 90s, I cannot do the same later on. I became officially an adult, mentally talking, far away from home. Most of my friends were not Spaniards, and I tended to hang out more with other nationalities than my own. (I also shared flat with a guy from UK and a guy from US.) Results: I find more familiar American Nerd than the Modernet de Merda.
This happens also with language and drama/film preferences. I am unable to watch US/UK dramas or films dubbed in Spanish or Catalan. I end up reading the lips! Hence, I end up reading “English” while being disturbed with the Spanish/Catalan they’re speaking. What’s even worse: I end up comparing if the English version is accurate with the translated one. This means that I cannot enjoy the show at all. Plus: I cannot relate to the voices. I need the actors to talk with their original voices (I got used to their voices… so… my brain demands that.) Thus, I end up watching original versions… And this also has an impact on titles of movies. Titles are also translated, so I might end up talking about a show or a movie with someone who has seen it dubbed. It might take us a long while till we realize it is the same show we are talking about (just because someone changed the title or translated it… too much).
Doesn’t this ring a bell about my nerdy tendencies? It does! If the film is in English I want it in English, for the sake of the script, the plot and the voices. If the film is in Spanish, I want it in Spanish. If it is in Russian, I want it in Russian with subtitles. (Nope, I don’t know Russian.)
Some might consider this as a case of “uprooting”. But I see it otherwise: I am simply tuned with another frequency. Talking about jocks, geeks, nerds or dorks can be challenging in a place where some categories seem not to have a word for it, or worse, might not even exist at all. And if they do, the wording can seem or be too odd (like in the hipster case). Yes, there are geeks and nerds, but not with the same characteristics I am used to. Yes, there are gamers, and film geeks… but the ways are sometimes too alien for me. And this might make me extremely nerdy while at home.