Monday, February 1, 2010


marica : fag, faggot

The thing is that this term is used much more ubiquitously in Spanish, at least in Colombia. You could argue for rendering it as bud, dude, or guy the way it gets used almost every other word amongst friends some times. I would argue for not doing this and keeping it as fag. It may sound more shocking used like this in English, but it's useful for the listener to see that that this kind of homophobia is so normalized. I remember when fag used to be a much more common broad based insult when I was in high school in the 80s in Seattle.


Jonathan Sanders said...

Hi Sara, how's it going?

A thought about this term...I think that it's a softer term in Spanish than it is in English.

The eptimological roots of "marica" is simply the diminutive of "María" (en Aragón for example "ico" and "ica" are more common than "ito, ita" or "cillo, cilla", etc.), since María is such a generic woman's name and gays were often considered to be more feminine.

On the other hand, "faggot" has several possible origins, none of which are as benign. Apparently "faggot" used to be a pejorative term for an old woman, and in the past. Others claim that it arose because gays were burned at the stake since "faggot" means bundle of sticks.

So you have generic female name vs. pejorative term for elderly women and/or execution victim as connotations. While neither connotation is particular enlightened, the second group is considerably worse.

That would also help explain why I seem to hear more Spanish-speaking gays use the term "maricón" o "marica" than I tend to hear English-speaking gays refer to themseleves as "fags" or "faggots".

Of course any word can be pejorative or empowering depending on who says it and why. "Queer" is a perfect example. I'd rather hear someone say "queer" the right way, than someone say "homosexual" in a sentence such as "I have no problem with homosexuals, but I just believe marriage is meant for a man and woman".

In interpreting, I'm generally against toning-down "bad words" out of "pudor". If someone says the word in a meeting---use it, as far as I'm concerned. They said it for a reason

Thanks for your blog, it's very enlightening. Are you going to the US Social Forum?

Take care,

Sara Koopman said...

thanks Jonathan! super insightful.

so I agree that it's softer in Spanish, but I'm dubious that it's because of etymology. I've asked lots of Spanish speakers what they think the roots of Marica are and none of them have come up with Maria. Not to say that's not true, just that it's not widely known. Usually I get the ladybug theory.

I certainly agree that queer folks have reclaimed marica much more than fag. But LOTS of non queer folks use the term marica too, and usually as a soft insult of endearment sort of thing. So I'm not sure that queer folks don't sort of also use it that way, rather than always as a righteous reclaiming exactly.

The whole reclaiming thing is hard, it slips out of your hands, and for some will never feel right. I know an older gay man who cringes at the word queer because it was used against him when he was young.

I also wonder if the term doesn't feel softer in Spanish not so much because it has been reclaimed, but because it is so widely used that it is more normalized. I think fag sounded much softer to me in high school when every one was using it all the time.

so anyways, yes, it's softer, but not soft enough that one should tone it down to 'bud' - yes?

As for the USSF - I was on the interp organizing committee but had to step down because the dissertation is really looming looming - due right around that time so it's iffy if I'll even get to go. Bummer. Are you going?

Unknown said...

Hola tocaya,
I was recently trying to translate "maricada" and I rendered it as "fucked-up-ness," which I liked for the informality and lewdness... but I appreciated your point about keeping the reference to homophobia and how normalized it is... thanks!
abrazotes, Sarah

Jon said...

And of course "fag" only for US, in any case. Not sure how you'd translate it in British English. And in Canada?