!Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican,

Whenever I hear people whistling at each other across the street to communicate, it hardly ever seems to be agabacho, African-American, or Asian—it's always a Mexican. Is it illegal in Mexico to yell out words too loudly, and whistling is a loophole in the law? Or does the frequency of a whistle carry farther than voice frequencies across a ranch, the desert or Mexico City traffic jams? Or is it learned behavior from living in an ambiguous environment (immigrant-friendly and -unfriendly) that whistling is somehow more discreet? Or is it cooler to whistle instead of yelling the other person's name?

Whistling Güero

Dear Gabacho,

All of the above. According to Whistled Languages,a 1976 book by Rene Guy Busnel and A. Classe that linguists consider the definitive study on the matter, whistled tongues arose in cultures that occupied areas where daunting terrain and distance prohibited easy conversations. Many such ethnic groups influenced the formation of the Mexican nation. Before the Conquest, major indigenous languages such as Nahuatl, Zapotec and Totonac featured a whistled-only dialect. After the Conquest, migrants from the Canary Islands, home of the world's most famous whistled language, Silbo Gomero, were amongst the first settlers of Texas. And since the past is ever-present for Mexicans, it makes sociological sense to argue that the Mexican propensity to whistle-talk, like our obsession with death and Three Flowers Brilliantine, is a (literally) breathing cultural artifact.

But don't think there's some gnostic mystery behind its use, Whistling Güero. There's really just four phrases to whistled Mexican Spanish: a sharp tweet to catch someone's attention, a longer version for showing disgust during performances and the lecherous drawn-out double note that plagues so many gabachas.The most infamous Mexican Spanish whistled phrase, however, is "chinga tu madre"("go fuck your mother"): five successive, rapid trills that roughly sound like Woody Woodpecker's infamous cackle. The last whistle is our favorite, especially because we can use it in front of unsuspecting gabachoswithout reproach. But don't use it in Santa Ana unless you want a brown fist in your eye and a mestizo foot square upon your 'taint.

Dear Mexican,
Why do Mexicans need billboards to tell them what country they are living in?
Channel 62 Pela

Dear Gabacho,
Calm down—Channel 62 already took down their controversial billboards, the ones that said "Los Angeles, Mexico" with Mexico City's Angel of Independence superimposed against the Los Angeles skyline. But at least Mexicans have the huevosto practice their jingoism in another country. You don't see too many gabachoswaving Old Glory outside the States because they don't want grief from angry foreigners. Mexicans, meanwhile, welcome with joy attacks on their culture—when gabachosgo locoover stupid billboards, it makes it easier for us to smuggle the last of our cousins across Otay-Mesa and get driver's licenses.

Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican atGARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!


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