Current: Definitions and Cross-Lingual Musings

In class on the 17th, we looked at pictures and articles the Steven J. Baum law firm’s Halloween party. One of the sides that stood out to me (find it here). It says “*!$%^&(  foreclosure! I’m current!!” It prompted me to think about the word current, its interdisciplinary use as well as its connections to Spanish.

Throughout the semester, we’ve noticed the overlap in discourse of water and finance. Current its counterparts, liquidity, flow, and flood all fit this bill. Google defines current the noun as “a body of water or air moving in a definite direction, especially through a surrounding body of water or air in which there is less movement.” As an adjective, current means “belonging to the present time; happening or being used or done now” (Thanks again, Google). The sense current transmits in the sign, however, is referring to payments. If I am current with my payments, I am up-to-date, with no past-due payments nipping at my heels.

Current in Spanish is corriente. While it’s used in the way that it applies to water and it does apply to economics (cuenta corriente is checking account*), where I see it typically used is in conjunction with persona. Persona corriente means ordinary person. In this context, it wouldn’t make sense to use corriente in its financial sense. The phrase, “I’m current!!” specifically references a person. Coming from the Latin currens, currentis (person who runs), it’s used in the sense of ‘salt of the earth,’ or ‘of the people.’ Both The Big Short and Inside Job made it clear that minority language dominant populations** were sought out to fill the need for mortgages and loans when regulations loosened and investors wanted more CDOs.

Putting myself in the lingual mindset of a Spanish-dominant English speaker (bilingual, but stronger in the minority language), “I’m current” can take on a new meaning. The false cognate (words that look/sound alike cross-lingually, but don’t carry the same meaning) alters the message. The notion of “*!$%^&( foreclosure! I’m an ordinary person!!’ or “I’m the salt of the earth!!” carries a different moral connotation than “I’ve paid my bills!!” Honestly, the ‘up-to-date’ interpretation is disparaging to folks that have their homes foreclosed. It makes them seem indignant and incapable of understanding their situation while almost painting them as whiny. The interpretation of corriente (although definitely not the original intention) implies indignation at the Housing Crisis itself. That the salt of the earth would be forced out of their homes would be unpalatable to the person interpreting current as corriente. This obviously isn’t indicative of Spanish-dominant English speakers’ thought processes or experiences, just how my mind wandered into a possible scenario.

*This class is motivating me to expand on my financial vocabulary though!! I hope to be able to effectively communicate about this is both languages.

**Minority language originates from linguistics. It refers to a language spoken in an area where it is not the main way of communicating, or dominant language (ex: Spanish in the United States, where English is most widely spoken). When we talk about minority language communities/populations, this is a conglomerate of all proficiency levels in people that speak that language in that area (i.e. Spanish in the United States, where English is most widely spoken). Minority language dominant communities, however, refers to people who live in that area, and have higher proficiency in the minority language than the majority language. These folks could be completely monolingual or have less communicative ability in the majority language. *If you read through this whole note, many thanks. I really enjoy linguistics*

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