All the “Bergoglioisms” of Francis The Slang of Francis/1: The Catholic God who always “Primerea”

This article is the first of 17 brief articles on the “Bergoglioisms” or Porteno slang words that Pope Francis often uses in his homilies and speeches.  A Porteno, broadly speaking, is someone who was born and raised in Buones Aires.  More specifically, a Porteno is someone who grew up in the neighborhoods close to the port area of Buones Aires as Jorge Mario Bergoglio did.  Think of it as analogous to New York City’s longshoreman.  These slang words have distinct, mulit-layered, and quite earthy meanings much as you can imagine slang used by longshoremen in New York City.  It is interesting Pope Francs uses them in his writings.  I came across this series of 17 articles on the Terre D’America blogspot in an article entitled “All of Francis’ Bergoglioisms. The 17 neologisms that have made the quaint language of the Pope”, posted by Alver Metals, August 1, 2014.  Included in the article were links to 17 articles by Jorge Milia from various dates written for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.  Jorge Milia, now a fairly prominent journalist in Argentina. was a pupil of Jorge Bergoglio when he was teaching literature and psychology at high school level  in the School of the Immaculate Conception in Santa Fe, Argentina, at the age of 28 while he was a scholastic with the Jesuits.  Part of the training of the Jesuits is to have the scholastics, once they finish their college level work and before their ordination, teach in their schools.  Milia fondly remembers his teacher, although he admits that Bergoglio almost flunked him for not turning in homework on time and very obviously not studying for the final exam in his senior year.  These articles were only available in Italian, so I set myself the pleasant task of translating them.  I hope you enjoy reading each of these as I did in translating them.  They are a fascinating glimpse into the mind of Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.  I will post these a couple a week for the next few weeks.  I currently have translated 5 of the articles.  Please note, I translated as I found it, sentence structure and all.  The sentence structuring of this author is not quite like what we are used to reading.

 (“Primerea” is a Porteno slang word that bests translates as “gets in there first”, “gets in the first punch”, “strikes first”..Reyana)

 By Jorge Milia, August 13, 2013, Terre D’America blogspot

The mentality of the “porteno”, the man who lives on the harbor of Buenos Aires1, is a bit particular.  Expressions of a cosmopolitan society, shaped by commerce and industry—a difference from Argentines of the rest of the country dedicated to the mass production of primary things—has positive and negative aspects.  Among the later, the idea of “I know everything” mixed with a poor sense of solidarity, has produced the consequent attitude of “I will be first”.  Whether getting a ticket for a football match or entitlement to a university chair, beyond the capacity of the real or alleged suitor, the thing most important is to get there first before others, to be the first to get it, win or grab it with a true and proper show of hand.  The idea, in short, is to always “Primerea” (get in there first, strike first) and at any cost.

To “primerea”, therefore has never been a virtuous neologism because it implied “screw” the other, grab the initiative before the other or before the other is aware of it.

There is a popular saying in the Rio de la Plata2: “who strikes first, strikes two times”.  This term, still “wild” is not tamed for the dictionary.

It sneaks in even today among lines in the newspaper: reading a record you come across a phrase like “…feeling offended, he pulled the knife first {he got in there first (primerea) with the knife}

From all of this we deduce that “primerea” is not a positive action, but rather quite the opposite.  Or at least that is the state before Papa Bergoglio.  The people of the “villas”3 know perfectly the meaning and use of this word.  Because of this, when they are being told by a priest that “you must ‘primerea’ (strike first) sin with grace” they understand it immediately.  The have understood it because he speaks their language, they know that they had to “primerea” drugs, the absence of work opportunities, marginalization…and not always would be successful.

The verb expresses an action that is no different than the old struggle between virtue and sin.  It goes back to the idea of “Faith as militancy” based on the concept of the permanent struggle between good and evil.  It is among those who go to ask or to thank San Cayetano4 rather than among the marginalized of the ‘villa” asking only with lottery numbers in hand: or else among the forgotten of Borda5, the soldier Bergoglio of the Company of St Ignatius called to fight, to “primerea” the sin, to “scrub”, to “climb over” the injustice.  And many discovered in his words that they had something to fight for.

But the expression “primerea” Papa Francesco also pronounced before the Pentecost Vigil multitudes with members of the ecclesial movements May 18, 2013.  That time, however, it was not related to believers but to God himself.  “We are told that we must seek God, but when we go to him, he is already waiting.  He is there already waiting.  He is already there and, I will use an expression that I used in Argentina: the Lord is “primerea”, he anticipates, is there waiting; sin, and he is there waiting to forgive.  He is waiting to welcome us, to give us his love, and each time faith grows.  Someone would prefer to study, it is important, but what is very important is the encounter with God because it is he that gives us faith.”

The Lord anticipates us, therefore, we, according to Papa Francesco, are “Primereare” grace (struck with grace)

  1.  The capital city of Argentina developed historically around the port.
  2.   The river that runs in front of the city and with which it is most often identified
  3.   The very poor and violent quarters of Buenos Aires
  4.   San Gaetano of Thiene, patron in Argentine of “Bread and Work” that every August 7th draws thousands of poor pilgrims and unoccupied into his basilica
  5. The asylum for the mentally ill in Buenos Aires.
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