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Talking to the Help

Home Maid Spanish
Storm and Ginnett
1976

Submitter: Here’s a little something I found lurking in our stacks, it caught my eye as I was passing. Yes, I did a double take!  Though it is rather stereotypical, borderline racist, it actually contains valid and useful information and thus we are keeping it. But since it’s from the 1960s, the title is not very PC.  I also included a few sample pages. Enjoy.

Holly: There are two more: Home Maid Spanish Cookbook and Home Maid Spanish Gardening Book round out the series!

0 Responses to Talking to the Help

  • Wow, your submitter did a double-take but is deciding to keep this non-PC book. Surely this information is also available in a less offensive package.

  • I’m with Esther. I can’t believe the library is keeping this! This is more than borderline-racist, whatever that means!

  • I agree!
    Why keep this? There has to be better resources out there. Even the Google translate can provide the same martial with speek functionality.

  • This is awful! It should be weeded.
    “Have you ever shopped in a supermarket?”, that was the worst one…

  • As a Latina, I find this at once offensive, hilarious and possibly useful. It’s worth keeping around as a cultural relic, and may fill a niche in Spanish-language needs. I’m imagining a crazy lady screaming in English at her confused cleaning lady, and yeah, this would be preferable.

    But I have to say, if you’re going to go to the trouble of hiring an employee who speaks an entirely different language (when plenty of English-speakers are available) you might as well go the whole hog and aprenda espanol.

  • I’m surprised that there’s no “scolding” section…

  • I don’t know…

    As a Mexican (born and raised) I don’t see anything wrong with a book that teaches a bit of useful Spanish to people. However, I can’t deny that this is a product of the times.

  • I’m dying to know what’s in the book. Presumably handy phrases like ‘What-ho, Johnny Foreigner, scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush, and be quick about it.’

    • Look at the sample pages. “Polish the silver. have you ever shopped in a supermarket? This is the automatic dishwasher.”

      Lordy. While I do think it’s far less offensive to try to learn key phrases in Spanish rather than scream at “the household help” in a language they don’t understand, I’m with Genelia. There are English speakers around. This might be good for for communicating while your maid is taking English as a Foreign Language classes that you paid for, though.

      • Don’t you love how these phrases do not contain one single please or thank you? I wonder how you say, ‘Do it youself, you lazy cow!’ in Spanish!

  • It’s always nice to see librarians taking their first ammendment duties seriously.

    • weeding a book out of a library for being outdated and racist is not the same as banning its printing or ownership, or burning as many copies as you can get your hands on in a bonfire. If you are going to invoke “freedom of speech” at least know what it really means.

  • This is not “borderline” racism. Get rid of it! I am sure there are plenty of up-to-date Spanish vocabulary books out there.

  • Finally! Now I can tell my maid how to polish the silver.

  • The little “washing the dishes” emblem on both sides of the cover is well beyond any kind of tasteful.

    I would encourage the poster to reconsider whether items like microwave ovens were available in the 1960s. How many people will never have “shopped in a supermarket”? That’s leaving alone the racial obnoxiousness. This book is out-of-date in practical and spiritual ways.

    One can best channel the awfulness by repeating certain examples among the English phrases in a harsh/posh British accent. “Polish the Silver.” “Will you cook a Mexican dinner for us sometime?”

    • Actually, I have no problem asking an employee of another nationality to cook a diner from their culture (assuming cooking is part of his/her duties). I have international friends I’ve asked to do just that. “Would you come over sometime and cook Japanese for me? I mean, REAL Japanese, homestyle? I’ll pay you back in fried chicken, biscuits and collard greens, since there’s no Waffle House around…”

  • I keep having that scene from The Oblongs run in my head, where the rich lady is calling her maid Consuella(sp?) and telling her the floors aren’t “bueno” enough, and the maid replies her name is Kathy and she’s from Michigan.

  • This is dated, for sure, but it’s also useful. And from what we’ve seen it’s also pretty matter-of-fact–it doesn’t seem to be judging anyone. Does someone who feels it’s horribly racist want to explain exactly what the issue is?

  • I can’t believe it went into 14 reprintings.

  • This reminds me of a book about apartheid-era South Africa called MOVE YOUR SHADOW. The book was a serious study of black-white interactions in a deeply-segregated society, but the author found the title in an Africaans-Swahili phrase book that white golfers could use when talking to black caddies on the golf course.

  • I would think that a good Spanish phrase book would cover the information better and with less offensiveness. Its outdated attitude makes it a candidate for weeding.

  • Content is not the only consideration when weeding. It’s the entire package. This book cover is not attractive, the title is offensive, and there are definitely better sources out there. The library should be conscious of the image they are sending to the public by having this book remain on the shelf.

  • I agree with many of the other commenters: There are more up-to-date and less offensive resources out there for learning basic Spanish phrases. Ditch this one and get something better. If you don’t want to throw it away, maybe some sort of archive or academic library would want it.

  • Pongo esta aqui (points at a Blue Box)! People can find good translations online, and we don’t need this book.

  • While the general concept is a good one, this particular version is in desperate need of updating. Some new kitchen appliances and cleaning products have emerged since the 1960s: I’m willing to bet “microwave” and “Mr. Clean Magic Eraser” aren’t in there, for example. And there are some new issues and laws one might find relevant today: “Do you have a green card?” and “Be sure to carry identification if you want to visit your sister in Arizona” are two phrases this one doesn’t seem to have.

  • I agree — this book is clearly assuming that the “Spanish-speaking help” will be new to this country and so backwards that they will have no idea how to use a dishwasher or any of our marvellous modern conveniences. The CONCEPT of this book is useful, but not the CONTENT. Weed it!

  • I can certainly see the need for a simple phrasebook for working with Spanish-speaking help. This isn’t it. Just that it fails to emphasize the use of “por favor” (please) indicates a rather bossy tone to the whole project. But some of those requests… Last I heard, they DO have supermarkets in Mexico, along with knowledge of all kinds of modern conveniences.

  • We have a 1944 extension service pamphlet called ‘Food the Mexican Likes.’ It was put together for farm wives interested in giving migrant workers something familiar for lunch. Unfortunately, half the recipes came from a Foods of Spain cookbook.

  • I’d like to know what the “useful” information would be that you couldn’t get in a more contemporary book.

  • I’m hispanic and I don’t really find anything in the sample pages of this book to be offensive, just outdated. What’s wrong with a Spanish/English phrase book? It should be replaced with something more current, though. Like other people mentioned, it’s missing some important information.

    Does anyone else think that Emily Gilmore could have used a similar book?

  • If my housekeeper just disembarked a TARDIS bound from 1950s Mexico, and if my collection of silver candelabra were badly in need of polishing, this might be a surprisingly valuable reference. Sure, you could instead use that shelf space for one of several more-recent books on household Spanish, but you’d be missing a valuable information niche.

  • There’s a brilliant British book of Colloquial Persian (sic) which was made in the 1950s for colonialist employees of the evil Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now even more evil BP). It included such useful sentences as:

    “This man has just shot my servant.”

    The only one I memorised, no doubt very useful on any trip to Iran, was:

    “Pas berid zud chadorah bezanid.”

    = “Go quickly now and pitch the tents.”

  • I would put this right next to the comic satire gems of “True Stories” and “Greater Tuna”.

    Swoosie Kurtz in “True Stories”: It’s clean down there, ain’t it, Hor-Haaaay?

    Or “Greater Tuna”: “Why next time I need good help, I’m going straight down to the border patrol.”

  • Wouldn’t it just be easier to find an English-speaking maid. If a person is too lazy to clean their own house, would they really have the motive to learn another language?

  • My favorite one is “will you cook a mexican dinner for us sometime?”

    Excuse me, m’am, but I am from El Salvador.

  • Arrested Development!

  • Keeping this pamphlet is important. Like it,love it, loath it, it needs to stand. It is a ‘relic’…keep it. Destroy it and you destroy actuality…

  • Rosie, “Do it yourself, you lazy cow!” in Spanish is, “Hazlo tu misma, vaca perezosa!”

  • This has no place in a modern library. If you think it has historical value, put it in a museum. Make sure the museum is devoted to racism.