The P Word


by César Almeida, United World College Maastricht
February 27, 2019


Ever since I have arrived I have heard this word being pronounced by countless people. Frankly speaking, it has been quite an experience to hear this common Spanish word being shouted out loud with so many differing accents, not only because of the funny pronunciations but also because before coming here I never really thought about the use and implications of calling someone a pendejo.
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Before coming here, pendejo was just another word to describe a friend who just messed up or is about to do so. Now that I am asked by non-Spanish speakers to translate this concept to English, not only me but all the Hispanic friends I talk to are struggling to find the correct words to give all of you an accurate description of this relevant, if not necessary, noun used in our language. This endeavor triggered within me a deep reflection on the particularities in language and the struggles of translation, so this article is mainly going to be just a flow of meditations, I hope you can stay with me.
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The usage of language implies the utilization of numerous types of structures in such a way that the meaning of a word or sentence depends on when and where it is used.
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According to Wittgenstein, one of the most relevant philosophers in western philosophy of the 20th century, words and languages can’t be reduced to essences or strict definitions. “The meaning of a word is its usage in language”. A word’s meaning ultimately depends on the way it is used in a specific context, considering the time and space in which is mentioned. You truly understand the use of a word when you accurately use it in a specific scenario. Nevertheless, knowing how to use a word doesn’t necessarily mean you fathom the definition itself.
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It may sound pedantic, but I do think that this is what happens with the P word, and in order to wrap my head around the true holistic meaning of this intriguing concept, I will present to you the connotation which, at least in Mexico, this word arises.
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Back in 1950 Mexico was initiating a period of relatively stable economy, the baby-boomers where a latent asset in society, creating some kind of impact in technology and science. Regarding politics, the opposition was relatively growing stronger but the main party in power was still strong. Amid all of this, the godfather of all the pendejos surged. Hermenegildo L. Torres was a Mexican intellectual who founded the PUP (Partido Único de Pendejos), translated to Unique Pendejo Party. This party was present nationwide and it was really easy to get in, you just needed to prove that you were pendejo by any means necessary.
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As the last comment about the PUP and philosopher Torres; the philosophy in which Torres based his thoughts and actions on was Socrates’s famous saying: “I only know that I know nothing”. Socrates, a man of his time, showed that knowledge, of human nature at last, is ultimately available to man, so the lack of knowledge (the pendejez) and the essence of being cannot be split one from the other, since both, in the background, are the same thing. In these tasks of the search for truth and self-location, anyone, by judging himself in an integral way, does not have to go very far to discover his true personality, this, without a doubt, has to derive from this simple reasoning: if I do not know anything, I’m a pendejo!
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I won’t conclude imposing or stating a specific definition of what this rich and broad word means or defines as I think we give this versatile word the meaning we want to according to the context and the person you are directing the noun to.
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My main aim is to show how language is used to create new philosophies, and how these new philosophies end up shaping language again. Is an eventual process of evolvement and continuous feedback. When differences in languages clash in a place like UWC, where we all speak different tongues, or within those tongues, different dialects, this places becomes a pool of fluidity and adaptation, maybe you’ll end up calling one of your friends pendejo or your partner bonito and what will matter will not be the strict meaning of the word but the implications of the usage it has.
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And just for the laughs, here is the list of 100 different types of pendejos declared by the PUP. Have fun identifying who you are and who your friends are. (For the sake of pleasant reading and because I thought it was rather inappropriate to write the word pendejo at the beginning of each definition.)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ij4AAbEkzU0isNrcMcHvlfzKITGjhrrhzeWMVx53n_M/edit?usp=sharing

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