31 July 2010

Throw it out the window!

In English there is actually a specific word for the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The word is "defenestration". The word originally meant "political dissent" but in the year 1618 a couple of high government officials were thrown from a castle in Prague which started the Thirty Years War and the incident was called "The Defenestration of Prague". Ever since, the word defenestration is synonymous with getting pitched out of a window.

Many years ago back in the Dreamtime when I was a Boy Scout we had a favorite campfire song called "Throw it out the window!". We would divide into two groups and to each group or "side" a leader was appointed. The song was a competitive game and the object was for one side to sing a nursery rhyme verse and append to it a chorus of "Throw it out the window". Then the other side would sing a verse from a different nursery rhyme and repeat the chorus. The side that could sing the most nursery rhyme verses without repeating one was the winner. Yours truly was often picked to be a leader and my side won more often than not because I really enjoy singing and worked hard at winning this competition. The song would go something like this:

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone,

But when she got there the cupboard was bare,

So she threw it out the window, the window,

The second story window,

Hi-Lo, Lo-Hi

Throw it out the window.

Jack be nimble Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick,

And throw it out the window, the window,

The second story window,

Hi-Lo, Lo-Hi

Throw it out the window.

So, how would we say "Throw it out the window" in Spanish? If you look up the word "throw" in your Spanish / English dictionary you will see several Spanish verbs that are synonymous with "throw" and the most common are "lanzar", "echar", "tirar" and "aventar" so which one do you use? Well, if you have noticed while driving in Mexico there are signs along the highway that say "No tire basura" which literally means "don't throw trash" but might be better translated as "Don't toss your trash". The verb "tire" (TEE-ray) is the third person singular (polite form) of the present subjunctive tense which is also the third person singular imperative. You don't need to remember the names for the tenses. I jut "threw" that in for my friend Dale. Now here is the "kicker". To say "Throw it out the window" in Spanish you would generally say "Tiralo por la ventana". I can already hear you asking, "Why tiralo and not "tirelo"? Because in the second person singular imperative you say "Tira" for "throw" and "No tires" for "don't throw". Now you ask, "Well how the heck am I going to remember all that?". The answer is that you aren't. That's why you need to memorize the phrases in their entirety so that they will pop into your brain in the correct form when you need them.

Well, then what are the other verbs for? In general you would use "lanzar" to mean "launch" as in "launch a spear" or "to pitch" as in "to pitch a baseball". A baseball pitcher is a "lanzador". We normally use aventar" in the sense of "throwing" or "tossing" something to some person as in "Aviéntame eso" or "Toss that to me". Note that "aventar" is an irregular verb and the stem changes from "avent" to "avient". The verb "echar" on the other hand has more of the sense of "move something from one place to another or from one condition to another." You might want to "echar" someone "a la fregada" or "al carajo" meaning "send them to hell". The phrase "echar de perder" combines the verbs for "throw" and "lose" to mean that something like meat, fruit, or vegetables are spoiling. It would be really worth your while to spend some time investigating and studying the different uses of these four Spanish verbs...and remember...NO TIRE BASURA!


Richard said...

I'm trying to remember the verb used in headlines when the Campesino's Union (which was just down the street from me at the time) defenistrated a couple of crooked leaders. Note to crooked union leaders: put your office on the ground floor :-)

GlorV1 said...

Tiralo por la ventana sounds okay to me. Of course I would never toss basura out the window. Never! :D You are such a good instructor. Thank you very much. Have a great Sunday.

Jonna said...

One of the earliest colloquial expressions I learned was that 'tirar por la ventana' meant to blow it all, as in shopping.

You are a good instructor, I enjoy your language posts a lot.

The Last Quarter said...

I've liked the verb defenestrate since I first heard it. Regardless of its etymology, there's something whimsical about it. I used to remember what it meant by associating it with one of the few French words that have stuck in my mind--fenetre for window. Do you suppose there's a verb, enfenestrate, meaning to climb in a window, as I sometimes do when I leave my keys inside the house? Thanks for the lesson.

Bob Mrotek said...

The word "enfenestrate" is sometimes used to mean throwing someone or something in through a window but it isn't an official word in the dictionary. Perhaps it should be :)

Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

Muy buena leccion, Profesor! :) I always enjoy your language posts! :)

bordersaside said...

I also enjoy them. I need to practice what I learn from them because I often find that later Im searching your page trying to find something that I just cant remember. ;)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.