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Batiscafo Katiuscas

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This is Batiscafo Katiuscas, a song by the Mallorcan band Antònia Font, one of the biggest hit-makers in the Catalan language. First of all, do yourself a favor, and simply listen to all of it. (The video is not official. A nice amateur person on YouTube made it. The images roughly follow the lyrics.)

It is a kind of a Catalan “Space Oddity”. Here’s my attempt at translating the lyrics:

Batiscafo monoplaça,
Es teu focus a s’abisme
De ses aigües insondables
Només tu les averigües.
Single-place bathyscaphe
Your focus is on the abysm,
Its profound waters,
Only you investigate them.
Batiscafo socialista
Redactant informe tràgic
“Camarada maquinista
A institut oceanogràfic.”
Socialist bathyscaphe
Editing a tragic message
“Comrade engineer
To the oceanographic institute.”
Batiscafo solitari
Dus un ruting planetari.
Solitary bathyscaphe
You are carrying planetary routing.
“Retxes de sol atravessen blaus marins,
Ses algues tornen verdes
I brillen ses estrelles, que ja s’ha fet de nit
I es plàncton s’il·lumina
I cantes ses balenes a trenta mil quilòmetres d’aquí.
“Rays of sunshine penetrate the marine blues,
The algae turn green,
And the stars sparkle, it’s the night already
And the plancton illuminates itself
And the whales sing thirty thousand kilometres from here,
Retxes de sol atravessen blaus marins,
Ses algues tornen verdes
I brillen ses estrelles, que ja s’ha fet de nit
I es plàncton s’il·lumina
I canten ses sirenes aproximadament per no existir.”
Rays of sunshine penetrate the marine blues,
The algae turn green,
And the stars sparkle, it’s the night already
And the plancton illuminates itself
And the sirens sing approximately for not existing.”
Batiscafo socialista
Redactant informe tràgic,
Catedràtic Yuri Puscas
A institut oceanogràfic.
Socialist bathyscaphe
Editing a tragic message
“Professor Yuri Puscas
To the oceanographic institute.”
Batiscafo Katiuscas
Fas un atles visionari.
Bathyscaphe Katiuscas
You are making a visionary atlas.

Some curious notes:

  • I don’t know where do the names Katiuscas and Yuri Puscas come from. My guess is that the author tried to make Soviet names. They came out more Lithuanian than Russian, but than can still be Soviet.
  • You can easily notice the es articles, commonly used in Mallorca – es teu, s’abisme, ses aigües, etc. Antònia Font use them quite consistently in their songs. The Catalan band Glissando* performed a cover version of this song with el articles: el teu, l’abisme, les aigües.

  • Another easily noticeable Mallorcan property is the pronunciation of aigües “waters” as aigos.
  • The spelling retxes for “rays”, which appears in the CD booklet, is quite unusual. It’s pretty certain that the author refers to “rays”, but the standard spelling would be raig in singular and raigs or rajos in plural. The spelling retxes is probably a colloquial Mallorcan variation, but I couldn’t find in any dictionary.
  • The author uses at least two Spanish words: “averiguar” to investigate” and “atravesar” to cross, penetrate”. For the second word the corresponding Catalan word is travessar without ‘a’, but it is nevertheless spelled in the Catalan manner with double-s. For the first word there’s no direct correspondence. There’s probably nothing too deep about it: Even though this band only performs in Catalan, it is not really purist, but simply uses words naturally as they come, “barbarisms” or not.
  • I don’t quite know what “planetary routing” is. It may even be translated incorrectly. The original word is ruting, which sounds like an English loanword, but could refer to a lot of things.

Most importantly, it’s a great song. The odd intro has disparate notes that collect themselves into an arpeggio over a minute, and this arpeggio becomes the songs main hook. On the CD the into is actually a separate track. The guitar climax in the second chorus, as simple as it is, is a wonderful rock moment.

Finally, I have a sweet personal memory of listening to this in a lesson in my 2010 Catalan summer course, right there in Mallorca – it was, in fact, part of the curriculum. Now that’s a good way to teach young people a foreign language: Rock’n’roll.

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Written by aharoni

September 28, 2014 at 20:55

Review – Diccionari Barcanova de la Llengua

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  • A monolingual dictionary
  • Purchased in FNAC Barcelona
  • Rating: 8.1

I bought it, because that was the only one-volume monolingual Catalan dictionary that i found in FNAC Barcelona that had etymology. The official IEC dictionary looked more professional, but it didn’t have etymologies. The etymology in this dictionary is far from perfect—quite a lot of words mysteriously don’t have any etymology instead of saying “unknown etymology”, a huge number of words give the Classical Latin word and add “mat. sign” = “mateixa significació” = “same meaning”, which is quite a waste of paper, and what’s worse—it says “mat. sign.” even in cases where deeper explanation would be beneficial, for example at the lovely word elucubració. It also has a concise grammatical appendix which is OK for quick reference, but very far from perfect, and a few pages of history of the Catalan language, though it doesn’t have a bibliography. The verb conjugation tables in this dictionary are rather puzzling and weird, and i strongly prefer those in DIDAC. Also, its coverage of Valencian seems to be patchy—it has hui and meua (today, my f.; avui and meva in standard Catalan), but not huit (eight; vuit in standard Catalan). Of course it is possible that it’s just my impression. Despite these shortcomings its definitions and examples appear to be more serious than DIDAC’s, and it’s the one that i use most of the time.

Written by aharoni

May 8, 2008 at 19:29

Review – DIDAC

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  • A monolingual dictionary
  • Purchased in FNAC Barcelona
  • Rating: 8.7

This is a dictionary for school children. It is colorful and richly illustrated. The printing quality is excellent. The definitions are simple and not terse as in regular dictionaries for adults. Examples of usage are simple to understand, but they appear to be written especially for the dictionary and not taken from real written literature, which would be better. Unfortunately, it has no etymological data and no detailed grammar, but it has very good tables of verb conjugation, pronouns, articles and prepositions. It also appears to have pretty good coverage of Valencian and Balearic words, although only standard forms are given in tables of verbs and pronouns. Overall, this is a very good dictionary for students, but its childishness is sometimes felt.

Written by aharoni

May 8, 2008 at 19:21