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Romanian Verbal Mannerisms: Their Origin, Their Use, Their Magic… (Part I)


This humorous yet pragmatic series of posts focuses on verbal mannerisms in contemporary Romanian to give you the bigger picture of where they might come from, why they seem to be so popular with Romanians today and, last but not least, when and how exactly they might come in handy to you, too.

We’ll have a look at language bits such as “haide, pa!”, “nu-mi spune!...”, “dacă e…”, “nu e ca şi cum” and, taking the biscuit, “gen”. While some of them will probably be forever struggling to enter the upper spheres of standard Romanian, all of them do specific jobs in various real-life contexts.

So let’s unveil the mystery of their (likely) origin, unravel the texture of the mentality they carry, and pinpoint their function in day-to-day settings, but be advised, dear reader: have your cultural compass on you as we go - some of these little bits of Romanian sprout out of rich interlanguage soil, offshoots of little global intimacies.

On the phone, and off: “Haide, pa!”

Whether because they were too lonely or too distrustful to speak at (some) length in Ceauşescu’s time [1], in the ‘90s people let loose their long-repressed inner selves, their carefully constructed dams of firm self-censorship were shattered to shards, and so it was not uncommon for phone interlocutors to talk at you uninterruptedly for minutes and minutes (and minutes). On end.

Today, you’d call them energy vampires, such “conversationalists”. Back then, it was polite to listen; when you felt unable to listen anymore, it was still polite to hear; only afterwards, when you really, really felt you could take no more, was it not impolite to resort to the little saviour: “Bine.”

That one word was the signal that you wanted to end the call. Admittedly, with some hardcore monologists you had to signal several times, but still: it eventually worked. You said your goodbyes, you were freed to politely hang up, breathe in, breathe out, and live your life. “Bine” did the trick. But you had to be patient.

Well, not anymore. Nowadays you don’t have to be patient in conversations with interlocutors for whom turn-taking is as science-fiction as the Klingons [2]. And you don’t have to be blatantly impolite either, ending the call too abruptly. You can just use “haide”/”hai” as a linguistic signal that you’re about to wrap up the chat.

Initially considered a bit rude, “haide” as an end-of-call signal arguably came up in the early 2000s, whether via close translations of Spanish-language telenovelas or coinage by the Romanian seasonal workers commuting between Spain and their country, back then. Today, despite muted indignation amongst proper old ladies who still find “haide” quite blunt and in-your-face, it is used extensively by younger Romanians as a frank, efficient verbal tool to put an end to a chat they are unable or unwilling to continue. All of its Spanish-derived versions are used, depending on who you’re talking to: Venga, adios! [3] / “Haide, pa!” and Venga, ya hablaremos! / “Haide, vorbim!” - with workmates or friends; and Venga, un beso! / “Hai, te pup!” - with family and friends.

And so, as “haide” replaced “bine” to cut short lengthy, wordy and possibly stifling phone conversations, perhaps we Romanians came a bit closer to being more time-efficient and more matter-of-fact.

Haide, să aveţi o săptămână excelentă! :)


image source: elms.wordpress.com

[1] Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ruled Romania between 1965 and 1989. His repressive nationalistic regime breached human rights systematically, so freedom of speech was far from being a daily conversational “commodity”.

[2] Warrior humanoid species featuring in Star Trek.

[3] Apologies to native Spanish speakers for the “Anglicised” use of single exclamation marks with these phrases.

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