The Dreaded Ojala Syndrome

Who of us who come to live in Mexico, having recently arrived from a fast paced, hectic, 9-5, (or perhaps 8-7) workday, with multi tasking being the name of the game, clutching day-minders to direct our every well planned out minute, has not come to a grinding halt when attempting to perform what would be a routine little task wherever we came from? Nearly all of us.

Yes, we come to “do” Mexico, but as it turns out, Mexico does us instead. Ever sat around waiting until 2pm for the locksmith, who was to have been at your home at 10am? Or conversely expecting the cable guy to be there on Wednesday afternoon, and he shows up Tuesday morning? One of the reasons this can happen, to put it delicately, is a difference in the way we perceive time, and the way service providers of our host country perceive time. But, there is another more insidious culprit tucked away in the Spanish language we are attempting to learn. It could be the dreaded Ojala Syndrome.

You hear: “I will be at your home at 1pm tomorrow.” What was really said is quite different:
“Ojala, (God willing, or literally, Allah willing) I should be, might be, could be, may be, kind of sort of will be, hope to be, at your home at 1pm tomorrow.” If you hear the word “Ojala,” sit straight up, perk your ears, and ask for the information to be repeated. Did they use the future tense? Most probably they innocently employed some tricky little “verb of wish,” with their escape clause written into it: the Imperfect Subjunctive.

I will be at your house tomorrow at 1:pm: Estaré en su casa mañana a la una de la tarde.

I might/should/could be at your house tomorrow at 1:pm: Ojala que esté en su casa mañana a la una de la tarde. Remember the told adage; “We only hear what we want to hear.”

The next Gringoism will help you order food, rather than ask if you can do a chore!

This entry was posted in Mexican Slang, Newsletter Archive.

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