For years, my brother and I have joked around with the way my old man speaks Spanish. It’s not our intention to be mean or make fun of him or anything like that; we just find very entertaining the weird phrases he comes up with. Given that the old man learned Spanish after learning four Chinese dialects and English (yeah, he’s awesome like that), there are some things in his Spanish dialect that come from… well, who knows where!
Today, I think I figured out the origin of one of his phrases: “Quimpota.” Now, that’s misspelled on purpose on my attempt to capture the way he actually says it, but spelled correctly, it should be, “Qué importa.” In English, that’s equivalent to “no big deal.” In context, the phrase is not difficult to understand, but I have always wondered why he likes it and uses it so much.
On my way back home from school, I have to cross a bridge that goes over a river and a beautiful park built on both sides along the river. Suddenly, I saw this:
Some blankets were hung out to dry in the sun, right there in the park, on the railings of a smaller bridge. Needless to say, I was amazed with the sight. That’s something people won’t do in Panama. Leave my blankets in the park? What if someone steals them?! I don’t know who would steal some used, wet blankets, but hey, why take the chance? And that’s something people won’t do in the US either because… well, pretty much every household has a dryer.
As I walked away, I tried to picture a Taiwanese person explaining this to me, and I came up with this sentence:
(Jiāli méi dìfāng shài chuángdān méiguānxì, guà zài hé biān gōngyuán jiù hǎole.)
In English, that would be something like, “That there’s no place to dry the blankets at home is no big deal; hang them in the riverside park, and it’ll be ok.”
The important bit in that sentence is 沒關係 (méiguānxì). 關係(guānxì) means “relationship,” while 沒(méi) means “there’s no.” Together, that would be “there’s no relationship.” If there’s no relationship, it doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter, it’s not important. If it’s not important, in Spanish people usually say “qué importa,” and my old man would say “quimpota.”
Contemplating and cracking up at this silly explanation I just made up, I realized the important bit is not only 沒關係. The sentence I came up with actually follows a common grammar pattern in Chinese of the form
「… 沒關係，… 就好了。」
(… méiguānxì, … jiù hǎole.)
Right out of the textbook, the explanation for this pattern is the following:
“Although the situation stated at the beginning of the sentence is a problem, it is not a big one. The latter portion of the sentence shows how the problem can be resolved. This pattern implies that one is making a concession.”
In that grammar pattern, 就好了( jiù hǎole) means something like “it will be ok” or “it’s good enough.” Thinking about that, I also realized my old man has another phrase equivalent to that in his Spanish dialect: “Faciliiito!” That comes from the Spanish word “fácil,” which means “easy.” So, whenever I come to my dad with a question or a problem, his answer usually starts with “quimpota.” After he tells me what to do, very often his answer will end with “faciliito!” And just like that, it comes right out of a common Chinese grammar pattern.