Being known as the Gray Lady and the Newspaper of Record, the New York Times steered around the word deftly. Thus, Juan Forrero wrote (New York Times):
President Hugo Chávez railed against the Bush administration on Sunday in a speech before tens of thousands of supporters, accusing it of meddling in Venezuelan affairs and supporting antigovernment forces trying to remove him from office.
Mr. Chávez, whose language has become increasingly hostile in the face of American support for a recall referendum, warned that if the Bush administration carried out what he called American aggressions, "the people of the United States should know that they will not get another drop of oil from Venezuela." The American energy market is heavily reliant on Venezuela, one of the top four providers of petroleum to the United States.
Accusing the Bush administration of destabilizing Venezuela and coveting the country's huge oil reserves, Mr. Chávez mocked
President Bush, saying he stole the 2000 elections and "is not even the legitimate president of the United States."
Mr. Chávez, a leftist populist, has ruled Venezuela since his election in 1998. He was re-elected in 2000 to a term that ends in 2006, and he has vowed to remain in power longer than Mr. Bush.
"Let's bet on who will last longer, George W. Bush, you in the White House or me in Miraflores Palace," he said.
The Miami Herald got around it by using the word 'chump' which I am sure took a lot of agonising to arrive at. Petroleumworld.com was less sanguine and got right to the point:
In his most bombastic and inflammatory rhetoric to date, Chavez characterized President Bush as "a pendejo [idiot, in vulgar terms] for allowing himself to be convinced that Chavez had been overthrown on April 11, 2002”.
Understandably, Petroleumworld.com was not interested in an exegesis of the word and wanted to move on as quickly as possible. But Reuters had no issue with printing the original words in their Spanish report (Yahoo! Noticias en Mexico):
Chávez llama 'pendejo' a Bush y rechaza intervención
El presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez, llamó "pendejo" a George W. Bush y amenazó con cortar el suministro petrolero a Estados Unidos por financiar a grupos de personas violentas en la oposición, que protestaron por tercer día consecutivo en respaldo a un referendo contra el mandatario.
"El muy pendejo se lo creyó," agregó. "Les pasó como el Chapulín Colorado, no contaban con el pueblo, no contaban con los soldados," dijo en referencia a que fue restablecido en el poder tras el fugaz golpe en medio de protestas populares a su favor y de la mano de tropas leales.
Now we are heading farther afield with a new term "el Chapulín Colorado," but let's stick to the word pendejo for now. For the longest time at the New York City office, a colleague there blamed me for using that word far too often there to the point that that he goes home and uses it on his relatives and thereby wrecking his family life. So what really is that word pendejo?
Urban Dictionary.com has about a dozen contributions, but those entries are voluntary contributions and cannot be considered to be authoritative. Salon.com also provides an informal description:
"Pendejo" is a much-loved noun, which can also become adjectival, adverbial and exclamatory. It literally means "pubic hair" -- but the meaning is more on the order of "a trouble maker," "a boor" or "a grouch." I have heard it used in relatively polite company, and it has the added advantage of being available in the feminine ("pendeja") or masculine ("pendejo") forms. "Cassell's" says the best definition is "a bloody nuisance."
But here are the Collins Dictionaries:
Source: The Collins Concise Spanish Dictionary © 2002 HarperCollins Publishers:
1 (Latinoamérica) (= imbécil) idiotic; (= cobarde) cowardly; yellow (informal)
2 (Perú) (= listo) smart; (= taimado) cunning;
3 (Caribe, México) (= torpe) ham-fisted
B sustantivo masculino/femenino
1 (Latinoamérica) (= imbécil) fool; idiot (= cobarde) coward
2 (Cono Sur) (= muchacho) kid (informal)
3 (Perú) (= sabelotodo) know-all (británico); know-it-all (EEUU)
C sustantivo masculino
(Latinoamérica) (ofensivo) (= pelo) pube (argot)
Spanish is such a lovely language, since one word can assume so many different meanings to different people who all supposedly speak something called Spanish.
If you must know about "el Chapulín Colorado", you can read my introduction. But you'd really need to watch it to understand what this is all about.
(The NarcoSphere) Memo to Time and Reuters: Chávez Did Not Call Bush an "Asshole". By Charles Hardy. July 28, 2005.
The July 11, 2005 issue of Time in the United States carried an article about the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez (“Tracking Hurricane Hugo”). The first paragraph lacked one word. It said, “Since he became President in 1999, Chávez has publicly, in Spanish, called Bush an a_____ who is trying to assassinate him.”
The omitted letters immediately whetted my brain. What word did Time not want to print? I thought of “animal.” That would not be a nice thing to say about the president of the United States. “Assassin” was another possibility, but I figured that Time wouldn’t have hesitated to use that word since they used its derivative verb in the same sentence.
I finally thought that maybe the word was “asshole,” possibly prohibited by Time since I believe it is one of the very few parts of the anatomy that has not been seen in its pages.
I decided to call Brian Ellsworth who, together with Tim Padgett, wrote the article. No, he confirmed, it wasn’t meant to be “animal” nor “assassin.” The “asshole” guess was the correct one. It is also an incorrect translation.
At the end of February 2004, Chávez told thousands of people that President Bush was a “pendejo” if he believed what others were telling him about Venezuela. The word “pendejo” in Venezuela means “a person of whom others are taking advantage.” It is not a compliment, but it is nowhere as insulting as “asshole.” “Asshole” is very strong and Chávez did not use the word.
Patrick Markey and Pascal Fletcher of Reuters news service seem to have been the original sources for this translation and it has traveled the world since then. Mr. Ellsworth defended its usage saying it is now the commonly accepted translation of what Chávez said. But who gave two Reuters’ reporters the right to determine what is the accepted translation for a Spanish word? I could find no one in Venezuelan barrios who recognized it as a correct interpretation for “pendejo.”
I thought possibly in other countries “pendejo” might mean “asshole.” In Mexico last week I asked people about what the word signified to them. “Stupid” and “fool” were common replies--very different meanings than “asshole.”
But on the plane returning to Caracas I started reading The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. I was only sixteen pages into the book when I discovered that Reuters is outsourcing many of its news stories to Bangalore, India. Is it possible that “pendejo” means “asshole” there? Did Patrick Markey and Pascal Fletcher of Reuters really exist or could these have been pen names of writers in Bangalore?
Brian Ellsworth sounded like a nice person on the telephone, but he said that he would be out of Venezuela for a while. Is it possible that he, too, is in India at the present moment with some of the other 245,000 Indians who are answering telephones and using pseudonyms? Does Time have people writing their stories there also?
Time, by repeating the inaccuracy of Reuters has to accept responsibility for their action. Misters Ellsworth and Padgett are writing for millions of people about Venezuela. The story was supposedly written from Caracas and a brief check with people here could have helped them clarify the matter before rushing to publication and repeating a serious error.
Even though many in the United States and throughout the world may think President Bush deserves the title that Chávez supposedly used, Chávez did not use it. It is Time major news sources stop saying that he did.