Language is a living thing, as much as any performing art. Its vibrancy reflects the culture it originated in and the cultures it passes through.
This date might not hold great significance for those outside South America, but in Argentina, December 11th is National Tango Day.
This passionate, evocative dance originated almost 150 years ago along the border between Argentina and Uruguay and soon became the signature dance of the poorer regions and people of both countries, often in port cities where locals mixed with European and African immigrants. The dance itself is a fusion of the Czech Polka, the German Waltz, the Polish Mazurka, the Bohemian Schottische, the Spanish-Cuban Habanera, the African Candombe and Argentina’s own Milonga.
With so many different influences on the dance itself, it’s not surprising that the Tango offers us an interesting example of a name being claimed by more than one nationality and more than one language.
In Nigeria the word “shangó” refers to a God worshipped in ritual dances by the Yoruba people in the country’s south west region.
In Spain “tambor” refers to a drum. Some historians believe it was used to describe the rhythmic dance, but mispronounced as “tambo” and later “tango” by Argentinian natives.
Others speculate that tango is derived from the Portuguese "tanger" which means "to play a musical instrument."
If these differences of opinion prove anything it’s that language is a living thing, just as much as any performing art. Its vibrancy reflects the culture it originated in and the cultures it passes through. It gives a name and a voice to our hopes and our passions. So Happy National Tango Day, Argentina. Just remember that every day is language day.
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