I’ve had a few of my Spanish students ask me were the Spanish term, ese comes from. Well, now it can be told! I really believe my abuelita, my grandmother, started it. When we had our holiday parties, say for Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas at my uncle’s house, more than one-hundred family members and friends would show up. We didn’t always know everyone’s name. This was before the invention of nametags. I remember asking people there, “And how are we related?” “I’m your cousin Agustín. You met me in Mexico when we were four.” “Oh, yeah, now I remember you,” I would lie. At every party, I would always meet a new family member whose name I would forget by the next party.
I have never been good at remembering names, but my abuelita had an even worse memory for names. I do believe I inherited this deficiency from my abuelita. At dinner, everyone would have to eat in shifts in the kitchen. She would make sure that everyone at the party ate in a smooth, systematic manner. With my abuelita coordinating everyone and controlling the distribution of food, no one went hungry. Of course, that would involve everyone in close proximity of my abuelita to participate and obey her direct commands to the letter. The punishment for disobeying was a rap to the hand with a wooden spoon! Everyone entering the kitchen was on their toes. So if you were standing by the stove and she didn’t remember your name, she would point at you and say, “Ese, dame el arroz.” [That one, give me the rice.] Since my abuelita couldn’t remember very many names, just about everyone in the house became ese. So now whenever I hear a Mexican say, “Oye, ese,” I think of my abuelita!