Which Way To NOT Go

20 Mar

When we retired to southern Mexico seven years ago, the village of Bacalar was quiet and peaceful. Three cars slowing down was a traffic jam. We used to listen to the stories of dirt roads and no gas stations from the expats who have been here twenty years. You would have thought we’d have seen the writing on the wall.

All roads lead from Bacalar.

In the last two years, as growth has exploded, some good things have happened. Well, at least some pot holes are filled. Slowly roads were paved and with the improvements I noticed something that I found unusual. Roads around town became one-way streets. The odd thing is that rather than pointing out which way TO go, the street signs direct traffic which way NOT to go. It messes with my brain, but this week I think I found out why. There are anomalies in Spanish, not found in English, that may explain.

Don’t turn left.

Menos mal, literally “less bad”. means a good thing in Spanish.

Menos mal que, means “it’s a good thing that.”

So something that is good is described by the degree of badness that it has.

Echar (to throw) de menos, less or badly means to miss

Te echo de menos means “I miss you”.

Also, telling time is stated by subtracting quarters of the hour. For example,

Son las cinco, it is five o’clock, menos cuarto, less fifteen minutes or 4:45. In English we would say that it’s fifteen minutes TO five.

Perhaps other languages use subtraction rather than addition to life in general, ie which way NOT to go or the degree of negative a thing is to determine it’s benefit. If anyone can shed light on this observation, I would love to hear it.

Rather than looking at the negative, behind, or ahead, left or right, we work on staying present. “Right here, right now.” Mexicans are also pretty good about living in the moment, when they’re NOT, not turning left. I’m not sure any of this makes sense, but have a good week.

DOS TORTAS

6 Responses to “Which Way To NOT Go”

  1. yourhandinmind March 20, 2022 at 5:21 pm #

    Not sure you are aware of this, but your post is your cross-cultural human factors analysis of your transportation signs. Good designs are seamless so we often don’t notice them at all. Poor designs often make us question ourselves rather than the design choices. Certainly the multicultural aspect is a complicating factor and your conclusion seems valid to me!

    Also, perhaps your New Jersey roots are unconsciously impacting you with all the No Left Turn signs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 March 21, 2022 at 7:17 am #

      “Cross cultural human factors analysis”, I love it. I don’t think NJ has any contribution however. I only drove two out of fifty-eight years there. The first two at that. I once met a woman who was visiting Austin to do a CCHFA (is that an acronym?) between bicycle and automobile signage. She was from Portland, where bicycles reign.

      Like

  2. Jack Scott March 21, 2022 at 6:07 am #

    Well, I might reply ‘not too bad’ to your question about how my week’s been – meaning good. It’s a common refrain for us Brits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emilie March 25, 2022 at 7:09 am #

    Interesting. I didn’t know those phrases, other than those regarding time. Explain a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • afish25 March 25, 2022 at 11:03 am #

      Yes, cheap is menos cara, less expensive. Now I see them everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

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