15 de octubre de 2001

The Sports Language in Teatro irrepresentable, by Jardiel Poncela

Por Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

The Sports Language in Teatro irrepresentable, by Jardiel Poncela

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez (*)

(*) Comunicación leída en el XXIII Simposio de la Sociedad Española de Lingüística, Universidad de Lérida, 1993.

The presence of literature in sporting journalism has adopted several ways during the XXth century: stage directions, melodramatic novel, short and humorous essays and satirical current poetry. The less cultivated genre has been theater, whose general production has staged plays about boxing and football, by means of comedies, dramas, underground dramas, comical toys, vaudevilles and Spanish light operas.

From The modern sport has been treated as theater theme, but especially it has been the pretext for creating a new reference framework for other situations, actions. It has constituted a way for characterizing special situations which have been taken the chief role by sportsmen or sportswomen and for recreating atmospheres of local customs and manners by means of sporting journalism.
The theater as journalistic collaboration only registers the Enrique Jardiel Poncela (1901-1952)’s one- act farces, author whose artistic work in the literary journalism includes also facets as novelist and as writer of comedies in the publications Brisas (1934)and Novela Corta (1950).

The six one-act farces, gathered with the name: Teatro Irrepresentable were published in the Aire Libre magazine (Madrid, 1925) and they are also the first literary work with a subject based on sport published in sporting journalism. Later, he gathered together new humorous aspects based on sport in his novel La tournée de Dios (1932) and in his theater work El sexo débil ha hecho gimnasia (1946) with the conversion of radio journalism into literary element and the conversion of sport into a motif for the social portrayal of Madrid, with a God who becomes a member of the Real Madrid team.

Teatro Irrepresentable’s theater language

The theater language of these compositions presents developed methods based on one-act farces which competed during their times with the middle-class comedy, the poetic comedy, the drama of testimony, evidence and the theater based on circumstances. It has typical features which have an effect on several aspects: subjects, development of the argument, realism, morals and creation of nonsensical situations.

In the subjects we can emphasize the constant presence of the search for individual happiness (with the training of a “frog players” team (play which lies in inserting a coin through the frog’s open mouth made of metal which is placed on a little table), the overcoming of a football team’s honor which was sullied or the search for a better life with his couple carried out by a swimmer); the constant presence of the collective happiness (with the bets of a neighborhood in a horse-race); and of the defense of the romantic love on top of all the ups and downs like a marriage’s salvation above jealousy and the engagement with a boxer faced with the familiar opposition.

The development of the argument of the six one-act farces is characterized by its brief length and also by the presence of only a principal action, which develops in a linear way with little difficulties.

Realism is constant in the characters and on the stages where action takes place. The characters are taken just as they are (they are natural), but in contrast to the current sporting literature the features based on snobbishness and Juan Tenorio aren’t taken, the features which were generally used in order to characterize them. It appears a high number of characters, between three and eleven, which compels to a slight definition of their roles in the plays. The stages where action takes place symbolize the popular neighborhood from Madrid in the twenties: Arganzuela, Tetuán and Bellas Vistas. Hilarious actions follow one another in the garden of a picnic spot, in the dining room of a house and the landing of its stairs, in a kitchen, in the supposed central office or head of an sporting entity, in the tub of water in a courtyard of neighborhood and in a piece of ground.

The moral aspect is in the relationships with the couple and in the failure of the cheats in the bets of the horse-races, with the apparition of a redeeming miracle at the last moment.

The creation of nonsensical situations has an effect on the continual resource, on jokes and on the exaggerations. The first ones happens due to several plays on appearances, double meaning and misunderstandings between characters. The exaggerations are conditioned by comical situations whose origin is a foolish remark which is cleared up later: the bulging eye in the Olympic training of frog play, the boyfriend who is a boxer, the meeting of a football team in order to accept a challenge, the married quarrel due to the fact of taking a liking to swimming in a bath-tub and the horse-race in a piece of ground.

Linguistic resources of the verbal humor

Teatro Irrepresentable’s linguistic resources form a peculiar and sporting style, a play which mixes up optimism with modernity and artistic humor with experimentation, combining pure, traditional expressions with sporting foreign words. It also promotes the use of fast and intelligent expressions and the use of enigmatic allusions with the creation of acronyms and the modification of the sport’s repeated speech.

It generates a verbal humor where acuteness matters more than the comical situation. The play on intellect, the subrealism based on grotesque distortions or based on fantastic elements and the search for unreality from the logical absurdity.

The phonic level is subordinated to the action of several procedures:
Permutation or exchange of accentuation, following stress and intonation from the English language.

Omission of letters in final consonantal groups pertaining to words with foreign origin (rin, gon).

Change of phonemes in words, typical of colloquial language, with the following linguistic phenomena:

* Neutralization in /z/ of final word -d (juventuz)
* Neutralization in /z/ of t- and c- in plosive syllabic position (fuzbolista, circunspezta)
* Substitution of x for s (ésito)
* Elimination of d when is between vowels in words ending in -ada (olimpiá)
* Elimination of d when it is between vowels in participles of verbs ending in -ado
* Elimination of final -d in words ending in stressed syllable -dad (barbaridá)

From a grammatical point of view, the Teatro Irrepresentable shares with colloquial language an organization based on the expressive aspect, comfort and the continual adaptation as well as the fact of having the message in context. Mechanisms which works in this way.

The expressive aspect organizes subjectively the messages, it condenses words or sentences and it also emphasizes both the speaker’s attitude and the part of the enunciation or statement which the speaker wishes to emphasize.

Comfort gives rise to morphological abbreviation of words, the deformation of clichés (Mengana in corpore al sano), the presence of stereotyped expressions and the spontaneous and lexical creation of special acronyms.

The adaptation of the message and the fact of having it in context gives rise to a constant play with the linguistic systems based on the orientation of situations in all the one-act farces.

But one of the most exploited levels in the satiric play is the lexical level, characterized by resorting to the counterpoint between pure, traditional voices and sporting technical terms; by resorting to the modification of the sport’s repeated speech; to the lexical creation of acronyms and to the formation of foolish remarks based on the logical alteration or change.

The first section has nine pure or traditional terms used by Jardiel Poncela in a sporting sense, and three of them are compiled in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española from the Real Academia Española (the Spanish Academy’s Dictionary of the Spanish Language), and nineteen sporting and technical voices from which two of them are in this same dictionary. These sporting technical terms are adapted to the phonic pattern and to the one based on accent from the Spanish language, giving rise to several amazing phenomena for humor:

Addition of -e to word ending in -y (jockeye)
Elimination of groups based on consonants at the end of word (gon, rin)
Elimination of consonants which aren’t at the end of word in Spanish (clu)
Writings which imitate the original pronunciation (nocau)
Writings of postplurals (after plurals like manageres)

Sporting technical terms

Sport’s pure, traditional lexicon

General Terminology: Bofetá (punch), bolea(slap), compañero de patás (team-mate of kicks = footballer), fiera de la manigua (boxer), guantá (slap), mondarse (to fight, to hit each other), tortazo (slap), zamarrazo (blow, punch), deportismo (sport).
Boxing: Boseador (boxer), direzto (straight), gon (gong), manageres (managers), nocau (knock-out), rin (ring).
Football: Casa-comité (head of the club), equipiers (teams).
Equestrian sports: Clu (club), hipismo (equestrian sports), jockeye (jockey).
Greco-roman style: arpén (grip, hold), brazo rodao (flying mare), corbata (method which lies in the fact of strangling the opponent behind with the internal part of his arm), flexion (flexion), presa de cintura (waist hold).
Swimming: Hacer la plancha (make a flat), paquebote (packet, packetboat).

The modification of the sport’s repeated speech has an effect on the classical idiom Mens sana in corpore sano, changed grotesquely for Mengana in corpore al sano.

The creation of special acronyms is a third section where it is important the creation or formation of unpronounceable terms in Spanish due to the fact of accumulating several consecutive consonants. These same acronyms allude to supposed sporting associations: Federación de Hultramarino I Zimilares de Amaniel (FDHIZDA)and Federación de Corredores de Alhajas de Tetuán de las Biztorias (FDCDADTDLB).

A fourth and last group of lexical resources is made up of the formation of foolish remarks based on the rupture of logic. In this way this verbal humor generates fantastic distortions created by comparisons or hyperboles and by ambiguities. Foolish remarks and exaggerations based on comparisons and hyperboles would be: la agilidad de rinoceronte pesimista (referred to something/somebody slow and heavy), el equipo más invencible que un filete de a real (referred to a strong, invincible team), estar en peor situación que un viajero de autobús  (referred to the fact of being very uncomfortable, in a bad situation…), estudiar al contrario para aspirar a matrícula de honor (to observe, to analyse the opponent in order to be the winner), los señores gordos que deben alquilarse para cerrar baúles rebosantes (people so fat that they can close everyting that is overflown , like trunks…pressing on them), el historial de un equipo más limpio que un rompeolas (a team’s record cleaner than a breakwater, cleaner as pure, honest….Referred to a not indecent team, but fair), las personas impacientes como los pescadores de caña (people who is as impatient as a fisherman with fishing rod), el rival más flojo que un refresco de zarza (an opponent, rival weaker than a soft drink made of bramble), no reunir dinero ni citándolo a tomar café (someone who can’t get money not even with this excuse: to make an appointment with someone in order to have a coffee) and regañar con cara de catedrático (to scold somebody with a very angry face like the a professor’s one).

Meanwhile, the foolish remarks based on ambiguities are registered in the expression: nos echan un “once”y les hacemos un “siete” (that means, a football team (“once”) which becomes the winner with regard to another one (“siete”).

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