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Spanish struggle to control spelling of 'WhatsApp'

Wasap? Linguistic anarchy, that's guasap

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Spanish is an accommodating lingo, as the recent influx of tech and net-related Anglicisms attests, but these foreign invaders often prove challenging for Castillian orthography.

The general line of attack is to adapt spelling in accordance with local custom where necessary, so while "chat", as in chatear (to chat), requires no rejigging, to post on Twitter becomes tuitear.

The latter demonstrates one way of dealing with the unfamiliar English "w", but the letter becomes more challenging when it's at the start of a word. That's proved to be the case with WhatsApp, the infernal messaging service currently gripping the Iberian peninsula in its hypnotic vice.

It occurred to me the other day I didn't know how to write WhatsApp in Spanish, so I attempted to unglue a merrily WhatsApping group of Spaniards from their mobiles long enough to get their opinion.

In reply to the verbal request "Escribe WhatsApp sin pensarlo"* ("Write WhatsApp without thinking about it"), I got the breathtaking responses "whatapp", watsapp", "whassap", "wasap", "watsapp", "wabsat", "guasap" and "guasa".

While it looks improbable, the cunning "gu" for "w" ruse is not unknown, hence güisqui (whiskey) and jalogüin (Halloween). Indeed, further research into WhatsApp showed that while the official line (initially indicated back in January) is it should be written wasap, guasap is "permissable". Interestingly, the plural is wasaps or guasaps.

So now we know, and two of my chums were right on the money, albeit without being entirely certain.

My next challenge is to determine the gender of the internet. In this examination of "Spanish gender assignment in computer and Internet related loanwords", we find that it's sometimes masculine, "servicios gratuitos del Internet", and sometime feminine, "Internet ilimitada las 24 hrs".

In fact, to avoid the issue altogether, Spanish speakers use internet "almost exclusively with no indication of gender, most often preceded by a preposition (por, en, de, con, a, desde, hacia), or by nothing at all", for example: "Lo vi en internet" ("I saw it on the internet")

However, if using the synonym web for internet, it'd be "Lo vi en la web", where web is feminine by the process of metonymic gender assignment from the underlying Spanish equivalent la red ("the web").

Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, and since it's Friday, I'm off to mull the matter further in my local hostelry with the use of a resoundingly feminine word of fixed spelling: cerveza. Cheers. ®

Bootnote

*Inevitably, one wag wrote: "Whatsapp sin pensarlo."

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