Iowa Writes

ROSSANA SISSO
Dear Sirs of the Royal Spanish Academy


                                                                                            July 15, 2015
Dear Sirs of the Royal Spanish Academy,
      I write to you with immense disappointment and discontent on a pressing issue.
      Please indulge me with some particulars. I am currently visiting an old friend in the lovely town of Iowa City. Maybe I should expand on the motives of my visit, but I don't want to encumber you with unnecessary personal details. Suffice it to say that I am a city woman not in frequent touch with nature; and that Iowa on these summer days offers an array of vegetation and wildlife that has astonished me since I got here. Maybe I should also add that I am seldom amazed by nature, as I usually find the outdoors plagued with pests and bothersome creatures that constantly insist on invading my personal space. Surprisingly, even to myself, I made friends with a small chipmunk. At the beginning, just curiosity attracted me to that half-rat half-squirrel animal. Then, it was the lightness of its movements, swift but unhurried. Finally, its unpretentious beauty simply seized me. Reddish-brown fur covers its body, dark brown stripes contrasting with light brown stripes go seamlessly along its back, and it all ends in a dark tail with just the right size - not too long, not too short. Maybe the cutest part is its face, it has a stripe that runs from its whiskers to below its ears, and lighter stripes over its eyes. Not to mention its pudgy cheeks, that make it look playful and unexpectedly welcoming. I have to restrain myself from going on and on about the peculiarities of this unique creature, as I understand that you must be extremely busy with the colossal task of guarding the Spanish language.
      I have previously mentioned that I made friends with this particular chipmunk. I don't take friendship lightly, as I strongly believe in the plethora of blessings that arise from the intimacy of close interpersonal interaction. Every morning we greet each other with a smile, but we face a huge language barrier. There is no word in the Spanish dictionary for Chipmunks; we call them squirrels, which I find offensive and ill informed. Obviously, squirrels are bigger than chipmunks; that is to say, the chipmunks are small and cute, while the squirrels are larger and clearly less cute. You never mistake one for the other.

                                                                                            July 15, 2015
Dear Sirs of the Royal Spanish Academy,
      I write to you with immense disappointment and discontent on a pressing issue.
      Please indulge me with some particulars. I am currently visiting an old friend in the lovely town of Iowa City. Maybe I should expand on the motives of my visit, but I don't want to encumber you with unnecessary personal details. Suffice it to say that I am a city woman not in frequent touch with nature; and that Iowa on these summer days offers an array of vegetation and wildlife that has astonished me since I got here. Maybe I should also add that I am seldom amazed by nature, as I usually find the outdoors plagued with pests and bothersome creatures that constantly insist on invading my personal space. Surprisingly, even to myself, I made friends with a small chipmunk. At the beginning, just curiosity attracted me to that half-rat half-squirrel animal. Then, it was the lightness of its movements, swift but unhurried. Finally, its unpretentious beauty simply seized me. Reddish-brown fur covers its body, dark brown stripes contrasting with light brown stripes go seamlessly along its back, and it all ends in a dark tail with just the right size - not too long, not too short. Maybe the cutest part is its face, it has a stripe that runs from its whiskers to below its ears, and lighter stripes over its eyes. Not to mention its pudgy cheeks, that make it look playful and unexpectedly welcoming. I have to restrain myself from going on and on about the peculiarities of this unique creature, as I understand that you must be extremely busy with the colossal task of guarding the Spanish language.
      I have previously mentioned that I made friends with this particular chipmunk. I don't take friendship lightly, as I strongly believe in the plethora of blessings that arise from the intimacy of close interpersonal interaction. Every morning we greet each other with a smile, but we face a huge language barrier. There is no word in the Spanish dictionary for Chipmunks; we call them squirrels, which I find offensive and ill informed. Obviously, squirrels are bigger than chipmunks; that is to say, the chipmunks are small and cute, while the squirrels are larger and clearly less cute. You never mistake one for the other.
      Maybe I forgot to explain that Spanish is my language. Only in Spanish I am capable of expressing my most inner feelings, those familiar sounds allow me to explore the world with effortlessness. Spanish is the language that I love, and that lets me love. Spanish is home for me. For the first time, in over fifty years, Spanish became my hurdle to communicate with ease.
      Distinguished sirs of the Spanish Royal Academy, you have placed me in a conundrum that only you can release me from. I humbly plead for your understanding, since you are in charge of overseeing the Spanish language, and have been doing so for over four centuries. I believe that such a prestigious institution cannot have forgotten to give this creature its rightful place in the pages of your dictionary; therefore, I have no other logical explanation than to think that the Chipmunk definition must be buried under a stack of papers in the lower desk drawer of some bureaucrat employee. This inexcusable mistake makes me wonder about the diligence of your establishment, and about how many other key words like fundraising, accountable and insight have not yet reached the pages of the language of Cervantes. What does it say about us? How can a culture truly survive without caring for the less fortunate, without responding for our actions and without deeply reflecting on ourselves? I do not want to distract your attention from the matter at hand, but you recently added to your well-educated pages words like drones and hackers, even Botox and affairs. Do I have to remind you that the chipmunks were here first? (well, maybe not before "affairs")
      I hate to sound pretentious, but I feel compelled to enlighten you on the etymology of the word "chipmunk". "The name "chipmunk" comes from the Ottawa word ajidamoonh or the Chippewa word ajidamoo, which translates literally as "one who descends trees headlong." I will not expand on this description, as I am certain that you too have access to Google. Is Google a new word that you are about to add to our ancestral dialect?
      I don't claim to be an expert on language, and I claim even less to have any expertise about lexicology. I just declare to be a faithful user of Spanish for over five decades. I am sure I have not always honored the syntactic rules and have been loose in the use of the semantics. If I must, I am willing to apologize for the misuse of words; the irresponsible addiction to lewd language, and even for the relentless Spanglish (I should not be solely blamed for that one. "Spanglish" is another word that you recently added to your vast lexicon). In the interest of time, I took the liberty to come up with some plausible contenders for the proper translation of Chipmunk. Trying to be literal and using Latin as a reference, "one who descends trees headlong" translates as "qui descendit arbores praeceps." The word "Praeceps" distinguishes itself as a deferential alternative; it alludes to the chipmunk's heritage, and to its boldness in facing life head on. Therefore, Pracepia, Pracepin, or even Prace appear to be fitting choices.
      Dear Sirs of the Royal Spanish Academy, time is of the essence on this matter. I will go back home in just two days, and there are no chipmunks in Florida, just thousands of squirrels.
      Sincerely yours,
      The chipmunk's friend

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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ROSSANA SISSO

Rossana Sisso was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to the United States fifteen years ago.  She now works as an elementary school counselor in Florida.  She attended the 2015 Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

This page was first displayed
on January 07, 2016

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