I have a thing for Spanish words...
I worked as a park ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, FL. Spanish colonialism was a real eye opener. Did you know three generations of Spanish were living in St Augustine when the first pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock? Amazing. One day I met a middle aged man and his wife who were from Barcelona. He was fair, blond and blue eyed and told me he played bag pipes in high school. His point being northern Spain was very different from southern Spain and I picked up that he was darned proud of that distinction.
His wife walked over to the east wall of the fort and looked over the Matanzas Bay while her husband continued his history lesson. Just then a beautiful young woman walked by us in the tightest khaki shorts the 1980's ever saw. The fellow from Spain eyed her as she walked by, blew a low whistle and said, "Que langosta." I looked up at him from the tight shorts and said, "What does a lobster have to do with her?" He smiled and said, "Where's the sweetest meat in a lobster?"
George Frazier was fond of duende. The literal translation has something to do with ghosts or goblins but it's more. It's used to describe that quality that's indescribable about a person or a place. Frazier once wrote, "...style was Joe DiMaggio's drifting back after a fly ball, but duende was DiMaggio's barring Peter Lawford from Marilyn Monroe's funeral." So the next time a young girl walks by in really tight shorts - - No, wait. I meant to say, the next time you're trying to describe something with soul and that "x" factor that's so hard to define -- you now have the perfect word. Duende.
And then there's cursi. I don't think Frazier knew about cursi 'cause if he did -- he'd as sure as hell have used it. Cursi means bad taste but includes, "one who has pretensions of refinement and elegance without possessing them." Man, that says a whole lot for only five letters. Put that on your vanity tags or your Lands' End bag. When I discovered the word cursi...my mind did the equivalent of looking around to make sure no one saw my fly was down. "Am I cursi?" I thought. Why not. I like to think I have better taste than most. But what if I'm wrong? What if I'm...cursi?
Asking that question of myself was like throwing a bucket of cold humility on my head. Who am I to turn my nose up at anything? Duck shoes, cargo shorts, flip fucking flops, Jack-ass-ville, Florida... No, it was time to stop the snooty and cynical eye narrowing at the couple from Lake Forest in the Jeep Wagonner with the Golden Lab who I named, cliche. It's time to focus on duende. Unless, of course, you want to discuss how cursi Peter Lawford was.