5 Jun 2011

Vinnies and Salvos

When my mother-in-law said a few days ago that she was going to Vinnies, I thought she was going to an Italian restaurant. When I found out  she was referring to the charity named after St Vincent de Paul it made me smile. I was familiar with this figure of the Catholic Church but I would never had thought of referring to him in that way. I knew Aussies like to use abbreviations in day-to-day language but only since I moved here have I had the chance to see the extent to which this is the case.  At first I thought this just happened in spoken language but I’ve recently realised these colloquialisms are also used in writing, as you can see from this picture.

I think Salvos sounds much less solemn than the Salvation Army. I also think the way we use language defines part of us and this is a sign of Australian’s laid-back attitude.
In Spain we add “ito” or “ita” at the end of words to make them into diminutives. There are also a few variations that are used more commonly in specific regions.  This way, “un poco” (“a little bit”) could become “un poquito” in most of Spain, “un poquinho” in the North West, “un poquico” in the Aragon region, “un poquejo” in some parts of Castile and “un poquillo” in Andalusia (southern Spain). However, I think it’s fair to say that we don’t change words in this way as commonly as it is done in Australia.

The only exception to this rule may be Andalusia.  Without wanting to generalise, Andalusians are renowned for their tendency to make jokes out of almost everything. In a visit to Seville a few years ago I found out that one of the bridges built for the Expo of 1992 had been given the name of  Paquito by the locals. This, someone explained, was because of its similarities with the famous bridge in San Francisco.  Paco is the colloquial version of the name Francisco in Spain.

As far as associations go, I can imagine Vinnie and Paquito as a pair of approachable, everyday common guys; more peers than figures of authority. Something that resonates with the Australian egalitarian way of life, which, without wanting to  romanticise the idea, I think is a good thing to aspire to.