Language Dossier

The Language of Hijitus

Hijitus, the well-known animated character popular in Argentina in the 60s, is back again. Thanks to the DVD magic, the new generations are coming into contact with the amazing adventures of the child-hero who enlivened their parents' childhood about forty years ago.
For those who do not know who Hijitus is, here is a short description provided by Wikipedia:

"Hijitus is an Argentine comic strip character created by Manuel García Ferré. Garcia Ferré adapted the character for a TV series that ran from 1967 to 1974. A film of the series, Las Aventuras de Hijitus, was released in 1973. Hijitus is a normal child who can convert himself into a superhero called Super-Hijitus using his magic hat and the magic phrase "sombrero, sombreritus, conviérteme en Super-Hijitus". He can fly and has super-strength. His costume is skintight, blue and has a cape. His chest symbol (à la Superman) is a hat."

The influence from Latin

During his childhood, Manuel García Ferré lived in Almería, Spain. The suffix "us" -applied to most of the words used by Hijitus (amiguitus, Pichichus, sombreritus)- shows García Ferré's intense dislike of Latin, a dead language he was forced to study under the dictatorship of General Franco. The Spanish literary tradition is evident in many rhymes that Hijitus made popular, such as his famous phrase "Todo aquel que en la vida, ojalá, ojalita y ojalata... Chuculita, chuculata" (meaning that a person who does evil will be punished sooner or later).

Accents and mannerisms in Hijitus

• Both the millionaire Gold Silver and his baby son Oaky (an anagram of the American word Okay) bear English names as they belong to upper class society. Using foreign words has always been regarded as a sign of sophistication and status. Being a member of the aristocracy, Gold Silver speaks with a markedly posh accent. His mannerism is "Oaky, hijo miiiooo!!!" Oaky wears the typical nappies that babies used to wear in Spain in 1930. A kindergarten teacher lent Oaky his childish voice. From her own experience with children, this teacher gave Oaky certain "enfant-terrible" mannerisms such as "cocha golda" or "lompo l'alma". It should be noted that the learned director of the Trulalá Museum also speaks with an English accent, symbolizing his high status in the community and his vast knowledge.

• The adjective "retonto" used by Professor Neurus would be later popularized by Jim Carrey's movie "dumb and dumber". The name Neurus is in keeping with a brainy-but-mad scientist and suitable for a neurotic character like him, whose talent only services evil. His mannerism is "Calla retonto!!! Mmmbueee je, jee!!!"

• Pucho speaks like a tango singer and Serrucho has an onomatopoetic way of speaking: he only makes the sound of the tool that saws wood. Pucho is a slang term widely used by tango musicians meaning "cigarette". His mannerism is "Rajemos muchachos!!! Este que... Maaamaa!!!"

• The comical hero of the cartoon is Larguirucho, a good-for-nothing fellow who at times sides with the good guys, and at other times with the bad ones. Half-witted and half deaf, Larguirucho frequently makes use of proverbs in his speech. Like Cockney speakers, who are members of the lower classes and drop some sounds at the beginning of words, Larguirucho tends to use ellipsis of the initial syllables of some words. The phrase he most frequently uses is "(Ha)blá más fuete que no te (es)cucho!"

• The police officer (nicknamed "El Comisario") speaks with a Correntino accent and drinks mate. His mannerism is "Maaarche preso, desacatao!!! Lo voy a hacer yepimporotear en el calabozo!!!!" He has a pet: a police dog named Boby. Curiously, the nickname Bobby (which is a slang term meaning "policeman") comes from Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the British police service.

• Cachavacha is a witch who lives in her "covacha" and who has her own mannerisms ("chumba chumbeta"). She sometimes uses sweet talk to deceive and to hide her evil intentions. The name Cachavacha is a clear example of assonance (repetition of vowel sounds, in this case "a") just as the magic word Abracadabra. She is always dressed in black, a very negative colour.

Moral values and social issues

• Hijitus lives in the fictitious town of Trulalá, which can be compared to the Simpson's Springfield. Like in the Simpsons, famous people appear in the cartoon, such as the TV announcer Pipo Mancera (a version of Marcelo Tinelli at that time) and the famous singer Donald. But, unlike the Simpsons, parents are never questioned since the TV series highlights family values.

• Hijitus is a street child who has no parents and no home. He lives in a waterpipe, probabably made by the Catalan company A. Torrant and from which the slang term "atorrante" comes since these water pipes were used by the homeless to sleep in. In many ways Hijitus resembles the poor and destitute children portrayed by Charles Dickens in his novels. Anyway orphaned children living in the streets was an unthinkable situation in the Argentina of the sixties; unfortunately they have become part and parcel of our contemporary Argentinian reality, which gives the series a dramatic updated twist. Hijitus drags a string of sardine tins tied as a sort of primitive toy, similar to the cheap wooden carts García Ferré played with during the Spanish Civil War when he was a boy.

• Hijitus' pet Pichichus has a bone-shaped visionary object which he uses as a cell phone. Pichichus' body is entirely white, but his left ear (perhaps symbolyzing the political left) is significantly black.

Gender issues

• In Hijitus there is a noteworthy absence of female characters. The only women who occasionally appear are associated with repression (the teachers at the orphanage, portrayed as the stereotypes of two prudish spinsters) or fulfill a negative role like Oaky’s neighbour, the spiteful girl with whom Oaky falls in love and who rejects the boy’s advances. The little girl who lives opposite Oaky's house reflects the typical Nordic stereotype of female beauty: she is blonde, with blue eyes and remarkably beautiful. Misbehaviour, by the way, seems to be the trademark of two motherless children: the spoiled-brat Oaky and the orphan Raimundo. Raymond is a paradoxical name: it means "protector" but Raimundo is, in fact, the one needing that protection.

• The Gothic tradition is present in the character of Cachavacha. Like all witches, she is associated with undervalued females elements (the broom and the cauldron) and she has a familiar. A familiar (also called familiar spirit) is a supernatural spirit often assuming animal form, supposed to attend and aid a witch or a wizard. In Cachavacha's case, her familiar is an owl.

Severely traumatized by the bombs that were dropped over Spain, Ferré became obsessed with one idea: to sow the seed of goodness and to seek the triumph of good against evil. Like a good fairy and unlike poor ordinary children, just by using his tall hat, Hijitus is endowed with magic powers to fight against evil and to defeat it with ease.