Monday, September 08, 2008

[Hannah]: The Meaning of Language

When faced with decrees from their bosses in Spain that they did not plan to follow, Spanish administrators in the New World would respond:
"I obey, but I do not execute."
-Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History, 2005.


At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Hypatia said...

Wow. Does that make any more sense in Spanish than in English? Does "obey" mean something a little more like "hear", for example?

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

Obedezco, pero no cumplo - as far as I know, obedezco means what it sounds like. Cumplo is related to "comply". So it seems like it's just as paradoxical in Spanish!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

Correction - this should be "se acata pero no se cumple". I don't know Spanish well enough to expound on the technical meaning of acatarse in that time.... Ma?

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Melinama said...

In my big dictionary, acatar says: "to observe, to respect, to heed, (AMER) to notice." I like that it's in the third person impersonal. The law is noticed/observed..."

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Jean said...

Acatarse means to respect or esteem so I guess the guy is saying, 'I respect your order but I won't/can't implement it.' It's kind of like Bush and his signing statements saying that he won't implement legislation passed by Congress. The official isn't claiming some executive privilege though unless there was an understanding that those who were 'on the scene' in a colony had some discretion about what they could actually do when they got orders from faraway Spain.


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