Thursday, May 21, 2009


Yes, we can't help it - we are white! And often times here we are called gringo (masculine) or gringa (feminine). So - where did that come from? Two widely thought of origins include: One story goes that during the Mexican American War when American soldiers were fighting and encroaching into Mexico, the Mexicans who knew little English referred to the Americans' green uniforms and would shout, "Green go!", meaning "Leave our country." This story is widely repeated among Mexican-Americans as well as throughout the Southwest United States (Wikipedia), but also, just as highly thought of is this: it appears in the Diccionario Castellano in 1787. That dictionary says that it was used in Malaga to refer to anyone who spoke Spanish badly, and in Madrid in reference to the Irish. Gringo probably comes from the Spanish griego, or Greek. So it is akin to the phrase it's Greek to me (or in Spanish hablar en griego) and the word barbarian.

Furthermore, according to the Catalan etymologist Joan Coromines, gringo is derived from griego (Spanish for "Greek" ), the term for an unintelligible language (a usage found also in the Shakespearean "it was Greek to me" and its derivative "It's all Greek to me"). From referring simply to language, it was extended to people speaking foreign tongues and to their physical features — similar to the development of the ancient Greek word βάρβαρος (bárbaros), "barbarian" Still, scholars are not in agreement about the correct origin of this word (Wikipedia).

So - Green go, unintelligible, or barbarian - no matter. To the "older" generation of Hondurans, it is still thought of as a very derogatory word, but to most of the younger generation it has simply become just another characteristic - meaning some person (regardless of ancestry) from the U.S. - just like you have blond hair, are tall, or are a gringo. Although some in our family are more white than others :-)

1 comment:

Becky Aguirre said...

Yeah, I'm a gringa, too! Miguel, however, es puro criollito! LOL!