Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hell (not a Yell) in my Hair

Lola and I are gearing up for a rough block of teaching and dealing with lots of minor emergencies. Today, my preparations for this and other notable events brought me into contact with what may be a Spanish neologism. At the end of my haircut at the Durango barbershop on Fillmore, the stylist, a Mexican-born woman in her late fifties, asked me, "¿Quiere que le ponga gel en el cabello?" For a moment, I didn't understand her, and when I realized what she was saying it just struck me funny. Research has brought me into contact with such borrowings as "colcré" in the Spanish-language press of the early twentieth century, but I haven't seen this one. My hypothesis is that this term has entered the Spanish language through the circulation of beauty products with English-language labels (hence its rendering as "gel" rather than "yel". I would guess that it makes sense to speakers who have the word "gelatina" already. Whether "gel" is replacing words like "pomada," or whether its use extends beyond hair care professionals is unclear. The image here is from the TAT foundation.