Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23rd, 2013
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English, Italian
“So you write ‘Queso’ on your fingertips (Q-thumb, U-index finger, E-middle finger, S-ring finger, O-pinky). And then you would say, ‘Que’ (put down the ring finger and pinky) ‘Es’ (put down the thumb, index finger, pinky) ‘Eso?’ (put down the thumb and index finger) ‘Eso’ (put down thumb and index finger) ‘Es’ (put down thumb, index finger, and pinky) ‘Queso’ (put all fingers up). ‘What is that? That is cheese’ It’s a thing that we would do, you can come up with all these words with just one word. It doesn’t work in English because what and cheese are different, in Spanish it does.”
The informant said that when he found out about this spelling trick, he was mind-blown. He and all his friends thought it was so cool, and they would do it all the time in elementary school. It was still done in middle school sometimes, but the informant said that it would be done secretly, because in middle school kids are trying to seem cool, even though they’re not. Even now, at age 20, he seemed to enjoy playing the game and the clever spelling trick that it involves. It reminds him of his childhood and native Spanish language, which he doesn’t get to utilize as much here in America.
I remember playing similar games with other English words, such as “this”. I think the meaning of the game, “that is cheese”, is silly, but that’s probably why kids enjoy it so much. It’s fun to appropriate a language and make games out of it. This little hand game is creative and silly, so it appeals to children. I definitely understood what the informant meant when talking about the difference between elementary school and middle school. The games change a lot in middle school, when kids start becoming aware of their sexuality and the status quo. I think this spelling trick is cute and fun.