Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rufino José Cuervo

Some of Cuervo's books, which he donated to the Biblioteca Nacional. 
Cuervo beer.

Rufino José Cuervo (1844-1911), who is on exhibit for a few more days in the National Museum, was probably Colombia's most accomplished linguist and chronicler of Colombian Spanish - and has lots of influence on those of us learning to speak Colombiano, whether we know it or not. His most famous works were 'Critical Notes About the Language of Bogotá' and the Dictionary of the Construction and Regime of the Castilian Language.'

But be glad that you never had this guy for a Spanish teacher. His overarching concern was that Spanish might splinter into regional tongues the way that Latin fragmented into Spanish, French, Portuguese and others. And so he probably wouldn't have approved of modern Colombia's rich slang vocabulary such as 'parce' and 'veci' and 'marica.'

The Language of Bogotá, which has
changed lots since Cuervo's time. 
The man studied and spoke dozens of languages, ranging from Portuguese, French and Latin, to Hebrew, Sanskrit and Lithuanian. But his life wasn't all dry. Cuervo's family brewed Bogotá's first beer, Cerveza de Cuervo, in their home on Calle 10 below Carrera 4 in La Candelaria. That building is now the Caro y Cuervo Foundation, which studies language, surprise, surprise.

Cuervo's death mask. 

A view of the exhibition in the Museo Nacional, which was originally built to be a prison. 
Beermaking back then. 

Poet Rafael Pombo, Cuervo's good friend. 
The Instituto Caro y Cuervo, on Calle 10 in Bogotá's La Candelaria neighborhood. 
Rufino Cuervo's tomb in Bogotá's Central Cemetery. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours , which also has La Candelaria's largest collection of used books in English, French, German, Dutch and other languages for sale and exchange.


mauricio forero l said...

" And so he probably wouldn't have approved of modern Colombia's rich slang vocabulary such as 'parce' and 'veci' and 'marica'"...jajajajajajaja that was very funny Mike. I remember as a child in elementary school having or been force by the nuns to listen to the grammatical rules of Spanish by Cuervo, this was one of the most boring classes. Hey Mike, so tell, is the Museo Nacional building in good shape?? I always loved that building. Really good post.


Mauricio Forero.

Miguel said...

Yes, the National Museum building is in good condition. They're renovating the front entrance, which is supposed to be finished in September.