You ring a bell

Jess: I think restaurants have become too important.
Marie: Mmm, I agree. Restaurants are to people in the eighties what theatre was to people in the sixties. I read that in a magazine.
Jess: I wrote that.
Marie: Get outta here.
Jess: No, I did, I wrote that. [. . .] I also wrote “Pesto is the quiche of the eighties.”
Marie: Get over yourself!
Jess: I did! [. . .] Nobody has ever quoted me back to me before.

I thought of this scene from When Harry Met Sally yesterday when something unexpected happened to me, particularly that last line. Nobody has ever quoted me back to me beforeWell, there’s a first time for everything. Yesterday someone “quoted” Vocabat to me without realizing that–bwahaha–we’re one and the same. Vocabat is my Mr. Hyde, so to speak, but, if anything, I think she might be my better half.

I was in my translation class last night, and the teacher announced that we were going to go over punctuation. He passed out a paper that had a list of punctuation marks and their names in English and Spanish. OK, so far, so ho-hum. And then a few things made me sit at attention. In a matter of seconds, I realized I was beholding my own work, looking upon my unmistakable intellectual property. I just knew the list had to have come from this post on Spanish punctuation marks in March 2012. How did I know?

…  Puntos suspensivos Ellipsis, dot dot dot – Hmm, I remember writing that “dot dot dot.” Kosher it isn’t, but my readers know that I embrace all things colloquial.

/     Barra oblicua/inclinada, diagonal, “slash” Slash – Interesting. I also recalled using those translations of slash and unblushingly including the Spanglish version.

#   Numeral, signo de número, almohadilla, cuadradillo, gato Number sign, pound, hash – I am nothing if not thorough (to the point of being annoying), and who else out there would have included those five ways of saying the number sign in Spanish?

” ”  Comillas Quotation marks (little commas!) – But this was the dead giveaway. It was the parenthetical that did it for me. Come on, who else is going to froth at the mouth when they realize that comillas are really little commas? That nerdy exclamation mark was the clincher for me.

And the order of the signs (there were several more) was the same as my list. My heart pounding and my face bright red, I raised my hand. I just had to ask.

Um, where did you find this list? I know, but what website? Why? Well . . . OK, this is kind of crazy, and if I’m wrong I’ll be extremely embarrassed. But I would swear that this list is from my website. 

Oh, snap! My teacher fervently denied it, though. So, I pulled out my Kindle, went to Vocabat, and, sure enough, the list was identical. I showed him afterward. Maybe he thought I was upset and wanted him to pay royalties or something for using my material? Or that I was accusing him of violating my copyrights? Ha! Au contraire! I couldn’t care less (now, if someone was toting my My experience in translation or My favorite Spanish words pages as their own, that would be a different story); I just thought the coincidence was uncanny seeing as I’d never told him about my blog. He said he found it somewhere else, but a Google search when I got home showed that that list doesn’t exist anywhere else on the WWW. Hmm. Curious and curiouser. I’d say that I smell a rat, but I’ve never had a great sense of smell. In any case, it’s a very cool rat that makes me happy. Think, that rat from Ratatouille, not Templeton.

They say there’s nothing better than taking a class with a professor who wrote the textbook you’re using, but what about when it was one of your classmates? It also would have been great, devilish fun to have interjected “I’m sorry, the source is impeccable” anytime he faulted the text for any reason. It wouldn’t have been true, though–I learned a great deal in that discussion, and I’ve already gone back and updated that post.

How to make this strange turn of events didactic? Well, here are a few phrases you can use when something is familiar to you.

One excellent verb is sonar. Sonar is used intransitively to mean that something rings a bell for you. It’s also used when you recognize someone’s face but can’t quite place them or remember their name.

¿Si conozco esta canción? Sabes, me suena pero no estoy muy segura de la letra.

Have I heard this song? Um, it sounds familiar but I’m not all that sure about the lyrics.

Disculpa, ¿será que nos conocemos? Me suena mucho tu cara. 

Sorry, but do I know you from somewhere? Your face looks so familiar.

No me suena ese autor, no creo conocerlo.

That author doesn’t ring a bell; I don’t think I’ve read him.

church bell ringer

Se me hace familiar, me resulta familiar – It seems familiar to me

Se me hace muy familiar esta película, seguro que la vi alguna vez antes.

This movie seems really familiar–I’d almost swear I’ve seen it before.

Me resultan familiares tus promesas de cambiar, pues si son las mismas que haces constantemente sin nunca cambiar nada.

Your promises to change sound familiar to me, seeing as they’re the same ones you make constantly without ever changing anything.

Since we’re on the subject, we might as well touch on how to say that you’re familiar with something: estar familiarizado con algo.

As you can see, kind of a mouthful. Also, once your brain is used to Spanish, it’s hard to look at or say the word “familiar” without thinking of a family member.

OK, being used in a classroom was just the beginning. When any of you hear or see a Vocabat post quoted in a movie, song, online dating profile, or presidential campaign slogan, let me know. In that case, I definitely want royalties, and if they’re big enough, we can and will totally share.


15 responses to “You ring a bell

  1. Congratulations! Maybe you should tell him you want to see the site he got it from…..I mean, come on….if it’s word for word?


    • Thanks! It’s the little things :)

      Again, it doesn’t matter to me. I wasn’t upset. I’m sure both of us felt put on the spot. If he didn’t find it on my site, then his source clearly did. Maybe somewhere beyond the clutches of Google, in the Deep Web underbelly of the Internet. There’s probably a Chinese Vocabat flying around out there somewhere…


  2. Jealous! I’ve never had me quoted back to me!


  3. cesarincarabello

    proud of you! kindle and all! I’m a bit indignant about the professor denying it. But go ahead and enjoy the


    • You guys really want to see me hopping mad! Maybe I can only get my feathers ruffled once a day, and I got upset earlier in the day. And maybe someone else took it and posted it in some internal site not accessible to search engines.

      I love my Kindle, especially since I can download books for free from the N. library :)


  4. I used to maintain a blog a few years ago, and I was very surprised to find an article in a newspaper reusing 90% of one of my blog entry. Of course, there was no mention of my blog whatsoever.
    It felt abused, offended, but felt some pride at the same time :-)


    • A newspaper stealing material from a blog is a whole ‘nother animal. Did you write them? Some people are so lazy and shameless.

      Teachers don’t have to list their sources, and I would never do so. Though it would be different if someone claimed they had created the material when they hadn’t. It was just the coincidence that was surprising. Then again, if you Google “Spanish punctuation,” my blog is the first result. I am still curious, though, to know where he found it. Though that curiosity is about 100 on my list of things I urgently want to know. Mildly intrigued, but I don’t really care :)


  5. The teacher was probably embarrassed to find that he was using material from his student! I think it might have been better to have asked him after class, without the other students listening. :)


    • I think you’re right. It would have been more tactful to have mentioned it later on. It wasn’t my intention for it to have been a gotcha moment- I was just extremely surprised and kind of blurted it out. (It’s a pretty relaxed class.) Still, as there’s already a somewhat strange dynamic in that class since I’m the only native English speaker and could be an ass about things if I wanted to, correcting mistakes I hear (though I don’t), I can see how that could have been potentially uncomfortable. Maybe I should be more upfront about my double online identity :)


  6. That’s quite a story. He probably got it from your site. It’s disappointing that he didn’t admit it. I can see, though, that he might have felt awkward with the whole situation in the middle of the class.

    So you have been holding your tongue in class? Don’t feel a little tempted to correct once in a while?


    • I try to be classy and recognize when people appreciate being corrected (and how to do it in a respectful and subtle way) and when it’s just insecurity or ego that motivates me to point out people’s mistakes. A balancing act, but hopefully one I’m constantly getting better at ;)


  7. Great post as usual. I’ve used “me suena tu cara” before, but it never even occurred to me I can use it other contexts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s