May 3, 2005, 3:51 PM
Post #1 of 3
For your enjoyment, an excerpt from Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast. Dana spent two years at Harvard (1831-33) then, suffering from eye strain, shipped out as a common sailor on one of those glorious cutters engaged in the hides-and-tallow trade with California, which was then owned by Mexico. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it since school, I recommend it: it's beautiful and a great sea story to boot. Here's what Dana had to say about the Spanish language as spoken by the Californios:
Next to the love of dress, I was most struck with the fineness of the voices and beauty of the intonations of both sexes. Every common ruffian-looking fellow, with a slouched hat, blanket cloak, dirty under-dress, and soiled leather leggins, appeared to me to be speaking elegant Spanish. It was a pleasure, simply to listen to the sound of the language, before I could attach any meaning to it. They have a good deal of the Creole drawl, but it is varied with an occasional extreme rapidity of utterance, in which they seem to skip from consonant to consonant, until, lighting upon a broad, open vowel, they rest upon that to restore the balance of sound. The women carry this peculiarity of speaking to a much greater extreme than the men, who have more evenness and stateliness of utterance. A common bullock-driver, on horseback, delivering a message, seemed to speak like an ambassador at an audience. In fact, they sometimes appeared to me to be a people on whom a curse had fallen, and stripped them of everything but their pride, their manners, and their voices.
(This post was edited by chrisnmarta on May 3, 2005, 3:52 PM)