When I saw this oft-quoted saying by Edmund Burke employed as an epigraph to this book, I thought I made a horrible mistake. In a typical grammar Nazi fashion, the author embarks on a crusade to protect the the language of Cervantes from numerous crimes committed by not only those pesky young internauts, but also “afiladas plumas”, no matter how erudite they are. Otherwise, you understand, the evil will triumph. These are Anglicisms, those are Frenchisms. Here she writes you can’t say that because RAE doesn’t permit it; there she criticises the very RAE for being too lenient to let the offending word slip into the dictionary. And so on and so forth.
Why then, you might ask, did I bother to read the whole thing, let alone to write a post about it? Because, if you can ignore for a while that crusader attitude, this book is bloody brilliant. Because when one is passionate about language and writes well, this passion is infectious. Because it is funny. Because the author admits that a vulgarism could be more elegant and evocative than an accepted form (as is the case with vagamundo vs “correct” vagabundo). Because she goes to great lengths to rescue some beautiful words from oblivion. Because, maybe for the first time, I understood what’s the difference between la/s and le/s. Last but not least, or maybe indeed first, because of its untranslatable title.
So... where exactly is el quinto pino? Why anyone would want to find gato encerrado? Is it appropriate at all to hacer el amor in public? Read the book.