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Labor, Trabajo: The hardworker's world

Este... Vamos a tratar a explicarles... este... la labor de la artesanía... Este... trabajo que llevamos acabo...
[Captions 3-4, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

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Nouns Labor (fem.) and trabajo (masc.) both mean "work" -- the opposite of retirement or rest. Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin uses the word interchangeably above to describe his subject: The work of local artisans, like himself, in the city of Coro, Venezuela.

Javier also uses the related verb trabajar ("to work") multiple times in his chat to describe how the work was done. Here, he talks about some of the materials they work with, such as glazed ceramic (el gres) and snail shells (los caracoles):

...trabajamos con el gres
[Caption 17, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

También trabajamos un poco con lo que son este... las piezas del mar, los caracoles
[Caption 33, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

When describing the employment history of his father, the verb trabajar pops up yet again. At this point in the video, Javier points to the building where his father worked in the '50s:

Mi papa antiguamente, en los años cinquenta, este... trabajó acá
[Caption 45, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

This translates to, "Formerly, in the fifties, my father... worked here."

One line later, Javier employs the synonymous (though less common) verb laborar to describe what his dad's job was:

Laboró como telegrafista...
[Caption 46, Javier Marin > Part 1]

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To buy time while thinking of synonyms for oft-repeated words, you'll note that Javier says este... a lot. It's a verbal tic repeated all over Latin America -- on TV talk shows and radio interviews, for example. Non-native speakers who have the habit of saying "um" over and over might want to replace their um's with "este..." if they hope to be mistaken for a native Spanish speaker. You simply can't say "um" in the middle of a Spanish sentence without someone figuring out that you're not speaking your mother tongue.

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Retirar: To take away and other uses

...retirándole recursos locales y retirándole autonomía alimentaría y productiva los agricultores
[Caption 4, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 4]

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The verb retirar has an array of meanings. Often, it means "to take away" or "to remove." Here, in Part 4 of the stirring documentary De Consumidor a Persona, we learn how farmers are having both their local resources and autonomy in food production taken away by multinational corporations.

Note that retirar is derived from the verb tirar
("to pull"), mentioned in this space just
last week. As in English, the prefix re- can mean "back" in Spanish.

"
¿Puedo retirar el plato?," a waitress in a restaurant might ask you at the end of a meal, referring to your empty plate. If you say yes, she'll take your plate back to the kitchen.

At the same time, retirar can also mean "to retire" -- an English cognate that's easy enough to remember. But note that retirar's synonym jubilar is often used instead to describe the act of retiring from the workplace, as in Venezuelan Javier Marin's description of his dad's retirement:

"Se encuentra jubilado," ("He's retired,") Javier explains in caption 46 of Part 1 of his chat with us about jewelry-making.

 

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"Retired people" are referred to as jubilados -- doesn't that sound like a happy state to be in? Yes, through shared Latin roots, jubilar is related to "jubilant" in English.

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Volcar: Overturn and other uses

Hemos volcado nuestra experiencia, nuestros estudios, nuestras investigaciones, nuestros recorridos por selvas...
[Caption 6-7, Federico Kauffman Doig >Arqueólogo > 3]

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The verb volcar literally means "to overturn," "to dump," "to knock over," etc. It is, however, often used figuratively. In the example above, Señor Doig is talking about those things that he and his fellow archeologists have "used," or "drawn upon." "We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungle..." The mental image that the use of volcar might create here is that they have figuratively "dumped out" all the things they've learned over the years onto a big table -- sorted through and arranged them -- using them to write their books.

Busca un trabajo en el que pueda volcar toda su creatividad.
"She is looking for a job where she can exploit all her creativity."


Volcar can also me "to be engrossed in," or "to be devoted to."

Está completamente volcado a su trabajo.
"He is completely devoted to."

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Jalar and more: Different ways to pull

Pero la calle lo siguió jalando
[Caption 21, La Secta > Consejo]

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The verb jalar means "to pull" and its use is common in many parts of Latin America. Miami-based La Secta, in their music video Consejo (which means "advice"), uses the verb in the phrase above, "But the street kept pulling him back."

If jalar means "to pull," why have we seen the
command hale, with an h, printed on doors in countries like Venezuela and Mexico? Well, it turns out that halar also means "to pull," and when we boil down the evidence it seems that halar is basically the same verb, more or less, as jalar, but spelled with an h up front. Which spelling came first, which is more "correct," etc., seems to be up for debate, and also a matter of regional preference.

In Spain, we are like
ly to see tirar (which can mean "to pull") printed on one side of a door, and in Argentina we are likely to see the indicative form, tire. (By the way, most of these countries tend to agree that empuje or empujar, "to push," goes on the other side of these doors.)

Folks in Spain pretty much never use jalar for "to pull," however they do use it for "to eat," but only in very informal settings -- it can be considered a bit crude.

¿Quién se ha jalado todo el jamón?
"Who has wolfed down all the ham?"

Vamos a jalar. ¿Vienes con nosotros?
"Let's go eat. You coming with us?"


In parts of Central America, such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, jalar can be used to mean "going out" or "dating."

Él y ella estan jalando.
"He and she are dating
."

 

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You can read a long discussion on the regional uses of jalar, halar and tirar here.

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Quien Calla, Otorga: And more about silence

Cuando callas otorgas...
When you keep silent, you consent...

[Caption 10, Circo > Un Accidente] 

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In the refrain to this catchy punk-pop hit, lead singer Fofé uses the common verb callar, which anyone who has ever annoyed their Spanish teacher knows means "to be quiet," "to keep silent" or, more bluntly, "to shut up." The next verb, otorgar, often means "to grant" [as in, permission] or "to award." There's an expression in Spanish: Quien calla otorga, which basically means "silence is consent" (or, "whoever is silent, consents"). So the refrain can be interpretted as "When you keep silent, you consent."

¡Cállese!
"Shut up!" (singular)

¡Cállense!
"Shut up!" (plural)

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Ánimo de Lucro: Intent to profit

Con ánimo de lucro
With intent to profit.

[Caption 24, Con ánimo de lucro > Short Film > 1]

Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.
 

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Frankly, it's a little surprising to have a documentary ostensibly about the quest to end poverty and hunger with the title Con ánimo de lucro ("With intent to profit" / i.e. "For-profit"). After all, to describe non-profit (or, not-for-profit) ventures in the Spanish-speaking world, the phrase "sin ánimo de lucro" (or, "sin fines de lucro") is commonly used... Well, future installments of this documental promise to explain this cryptic title.

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Acabar: More meanings after the end

Imagina acabar con el hambre y la pobreza...
Imagine putting an end to hunger and poverty

[Caption 1, Con ánimo de lucro > Short Film > 1]

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The short film titled Con ánimo de lucro starts with a series of commands reminiscent of the John Lennon song "Imagine." But what's that word after Imagina (the familiar command form of imaginar)? The short answer is that acabar means "to end" or "to finish."

Se nos acabaron las galletitas.
"We´ve run out of cookies."


We could end our discussion right there, but we won't because acabar can confuse non-native speakers in a variety of contexts. It's more widely used and has more shades of meaning than its synonym terminar (also "to end"). For example, you'll commonly hear
acabar de mean "just" as in:

Acabamos de terminar.
"We just finished."

Acabo de enterarme que van a casarse.
"I´ve just learned they are getting married.
"


Meanwhile, acabar por can mean "finally" as in:

Acabé por decirle la verdad.
"I finally told him the truth."

 

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MORE:

¡No irás y se acabó!
You won´t go and that´s that!


In some places, especially Argentina,
acabar can mean "to have an orgasm," when used in the right context. This usage is colloquial but not considered terribly rude.

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Porqué: The reasons

No se tenía porqué poner zapatos.
[Caption 18, Federico Kauffman Doig > Arqueólogo > 1]

 

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In this space, just two weeks ago, we discussed que ("that") and ¿qué? ("what?"), porque ("because") and ¿por qué? ("why?"). In these instances, the accent over the é turned a conjunction into an interrogation.

This week, the affable archaeologist Federico Kauffman Doig reminds us of another porqué, which is a noun that means the reason, cause or motive for something. Because it's a noun, porqué has a gender -- masculine -- and is often preceded by a definite (el, los) or indefinite article (un, unos).

Related:

Los porqués son...
"The reasons are..."
 
Un porqué
de...

" A reason for.... "
 

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So, take this hint if you want to ace a Spanish spelling bee (un concurso de deletreo): If porqué is used as a noun, it's always one word and has an accent over its é.

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Pretender: Beware of false cognates

Lo que pretendemos es sembrar en la gente la actitud de reducir...
[Caption 1, De consumidor a persona > Short Film > 3
]

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It's easy enough to guess the meaning of some Spanish verbs. Take the environmentally helpful trio reducir, reutilizar and reciclar, for example. If you guessed the three verbs mean "to reduce," "to reutilize" and "to recycle," respectively, you're right on. Because Spanish and English share so many Latin language roots, many words sound similar--in other words, they are cognates. But watch out for false cognates, AKA false friends. Two examples are the verbs atender and asistir. In Spanish, atender does not mean "to attend," but "to serve." Meanwhile, asistir does not mean "to assist" but "to attend."

Which brings us back to the quote above. False friend pretender commonly means "to try,"
"to seek" or "to be after." So, the sentence above can be translated as: "What we seek is to instill [literally, "to sow"] in the people the attitude of reducing...."

While pretender and "pretend" have common Latin roots, the use of the word in English to mean "to seek" or "to undertake" fell out of use many moons ago. (Note the archaic definition still stands in some English dictionaries, like
this one.)

El gobierno pretende proteger los derechos de los trabajadores.
"The government seeks (or tries) to protect the rights of the workers."

No pretendo ser tu dueño.
"I don't want (or aspire) to be your master."

¿Y qué pretendes que haga yo? Como si pudiera cambiar algo.
"And what do you want me to do? As if I could change a thing."

 

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Note: the Spanish equivalent of "to pretend," as it is commonly used in modern English, is commonly fingir.

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Ganas: What we want to do

Pensamos que el agua, que el aire, que el suelo es nuestro y podemos hacer lo que nos dé la gana. No es cierto.
[Caption 7-8, De consumidor a persona > Short Film > 2]

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Gana, meaning "wish" or "will," is a noun that plays a key role to express wishes or desires in Spanish. The expression darle (a alguien) la gana means "to feel like" or "to want to."

"We think that the water, the air, the land is ours and we can do with it what we feel like. That's not true."


lo que me dé la gana
"what I feel like"

lo que te dé la gana
"what you feel like"

lo que le dé la gana
"what you feel like / what he-she feels like"

lo que les dé la gana
"what you [pl.] feel like / what they feel like"


Even more common is the pairing of the verb tener ("to have") with the plural ganas, as in:

Tenía ganas de hacer algo con eso
[Caption 48, Biografía > Natalia Oreiro > 4]

 

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Natalia is saying: "I wanted to do something with this." The word-for-word translation might have you thinking she had the will to do it, but common understanding is simply that she felt like it, or wanted to do it.

Tengo muchas ganas de aprender español.
"I really want to learn Spanish."

No tengo ganas de parar ahora.
"I don't want to stop now."

 

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Ni Papa: It ain't no thing

...yo no entiendo ni papa.
[Caption 53, Si-Sé > entrevista > Part 1]

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When Carol C. of Si*Sé says with a shrug, yo no entiendo ni papa, it's easy enough for us to understand by the context that she doesn't understand a word. She could also have said no entiendo nada, which means "I don't understand anything." [Remember: you use the word nada ("nothing") instead of algo ("anything") after no in negative expressions in Spanish.]

But here singer C.C. chooses a common Spanish phrase for emphasis -ni papa. Ni means "not even" or "nor." That much is straightforward. But papa is one of those words with an almost comic array of meanings -from "Pope," as in
más papista que el papa ("more papist than the Pope"), to "potato," as in papas fritas ("french fries"). Well, one of the many meanings of papa comes from the Latin "pappa" and it means "baby food," "mush," or "pulp." And that's the meaning most commonly associated with the phrase ni papa (literally: "not even mush").

No puedo ver ni papa
"I can't see a thing."

Él no sabe ni papa
"He doesn't know a thing."

 

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Related:

Es una papa.
It's a piece of cake. [It's easily done/easily accomplished.]

No te preocupes por el examen, es una papa.
Don´t worry about the exam, it´s a piece of cake.

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Dar: It's the land giving

y sembrar sus cositas por ahí... lo que da cebolla, tomate, al pimentón, el ají, y otras cosas pues, por ahí.
[Caption 22-23, José Rodríguez > La Finca]

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Have you noticed that the verb dar, which we usually take to mean "to give" seems to be used a lot in reference to the growing of fruits and vegetables. Well it turns out that what is doing the "giving," and sometimes it is implied, sometimes more explicit, is la tierra, "the land." Here we find José Rodríguez talking about people in the area "planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili peppers, and other things, around here."

It's not the first time we find dar used in this way. If we check back with our friend Rafael discussing Guatemala:

la tierra... la tierra de las verduras... porque ahí hay... da buenas... verdura, como repollo, zanahoria, cebolla... tomate...
[Captions 11-14, Rafael T > Guatemala Hermosa]

"the land... the land of vegetables... because here there are... [the land] produces good... vegetables, like cabbage, carrot, onion... tomato..."

Digamos en la costa... también da buenas frutas... como la naranja, la sandía, la papaya
[Captions 15, Rafael T > Guatemala Hermosa]

"let's say the coast... also produces good fruit... like orange, watermelon, papaya"

Another example:


Este año, mis tierras no han dado una buena cosecha.
This year, my lands didn't produce a good harvest.

 

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In all of the examples above, dar takes a direct object ("cabbage", "oranges", etc.). However, the reflexive darse can be used as well, with no direct object, and the meaning is "to grow," or "to come up." (This "reflexive" usage, as per the examples below, is somewhat more common in Spain than Latin America.)

He plantado aquí tomates, pero no se dan.
I planted tomatoes here, but they aren't growing (or "aren't coming up").

Las palmeras no se dan en Noruega.
Palm trees don't grow in Norway.

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Que: It also means "because"

Pero no te quedes ahí dándole vueltas a la cabeza, que tanto pensar no es bueno.



[Caption 29, De consumidor a persona > Short Film > Part 1]



 

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Que most often means "that." Slap an accent on the final e and we have qué, used to ask the question "what?" -- add por before qué and you have ¿por qué?, which asks the question "why?" ¿Por qué? is two words, but if we push the two together, without the accent on the e, we have porque, which is one word, and it means "because."







You may just know all that. What you might not have known is that que can also mean "because," or "as," and that's the meaning it takes in the line above:







"But don't stay there making your head spin, because [or "as"] thinking so much is not good."







Other examples:








No comas más, que no es bueno antes de ir a la cama.



"Don't eat more, as it's not good before going to bed."







Obedéceme, que si no lo haces, te vas a arrepentir.



"Obey me, because if you don't, you are going to regret it."







No corras, que el piso está mojado.



"Don't run, because the floor is wet."

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En Aquel Entonces: Back then

 

Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas, de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.
[Captions 6-9, Emiro > La historia de Emiro]

 

 

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On the beach in Eastern Venezuela, Pimienta Café proprietor Emiro tells us about his family history. To tell us about life "back then," Emiro uses the phrase en aquel entonces, which might seem to mean "In that then," if taken literally. But this common expression of time is better understood as "in those times" or "in those days," giving us:

 

"My father was a school teacher, director of the schools, schools belonging to the Shell Oil company, back in those days."

 

Note the use of demonstrative adjective aquel here. Remember that in Spanish there are three demonstrative adjectives to say "this" and "that": este, ese AND aquel. The last of this demonstrative trio is sometimes translated as "that...way over there," implying more distance than a simple ese (or, "that"). So you should get a sense that Emiro is talking about what happened "way back when."

Faithful readers might remember that we recently discussed a similar construction of time. You see, Hoy en día means "nowadays" even though it may appear to mean something like "today in day" if taken literally (and awkwardly). [Look for Emiro's use of hoy en día in caption 28 of this same video.]

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Trivial aside: It was an interview with Oscar-winner Gustavo Santaolalla that prompted our discussion of hoy en día just a few weeks ago. Well, the seemingly ubiquitous Santaolalla happens to be the producer of La Vela Puerca's aforementioned album featuring the song (and our featured word) Zafar. We warned you this was trivia, right?

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Zafar: Getting out and getting by

¡Yo de ésta no puedo zafar!
[Caption 76, Provócame > Pilot > Part 17]

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Later, in the same scene, our heroine Ana has another breathless exclamation worthy of a closer look. In it, she uses the verb zafar, which can mean "to escape," "to free" or "to untie," according to the authoritative Spanish dictionary from the La Real Academia Española. Along these lines, a current popular song by the Uruguayan band La Vela Puerca is titled Zafar, in the sense of "To escape." The song discusses the fumes and smells of the city and is punctuated by the refrain: ...estoy zafando del olor ("...I am escaping from the smell").

In neighboring, Argentina, you hear the verb zafar all the time on the city streets, with a more modern, slangy meaning: "to get by." For example, if you ask an Argentine how he's doing, he may answer, estoy zafando, meaning "I'm hanging in there."

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Ver la cara: Taking for a fool

¡Te vieron la cara!
caption 65, Provócame > Pilot > Part 17

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A literal translation of Te vieron la cara would seem to mean "They saw your face." However, there is an expression in many Latin American countries that goes me/te/se/nos vieron la cara de idiota, which translates literally to something like "they saw my/your/his/her/our face as the face of an idiot" but which is best taken as "They took me/you/him/her for a fool." The ending de idiota is often dropped and merely implied, so when Ana declares ¡Te vieron la cara! she means "They took you for a fool!" (By the way, while this expression is found from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, you are not bound to hear it in Spain.)

Depending on the context of the situation, the phrase can also mean they took you for something else besides a fool. For example, if you are charged a hefty sum for a street taco in downtown Tijuana, you might suspect "They took me for a tourist," Me vieron la cara de turista.

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Monte de Piedad: Merciful pawn shops

Monte de Piedad
[Caption 4, Control Machete > El Apostador]

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Monte de Piedad translates litterally to "Mount of Mercy," which sounds like a religiously inspired exclamation use to punctuate this tale of gaming overindulgence; it is in fact the name of Mexico's facinating chain of state-run and state-controlled pawn shops. These exist throughout the country and are actively used by a surprisingly large percentage of the Mexican population on a fairly regular basis.

An excellent write-up including a modern account and full history:
http://www.mexconnect.com/MEX/jrose/jjrpiedad.html
Also worth reading:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1280276,00.html

(Oddly enough, while there is talk of a comebcak and current debate, Mexico has not had full-time legal casinos since 1935 -- so Control Machete is either way ahead of the curve or got their inspiration north of the Rio Grande.)

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Che, Boludo: Argentinian 101

Che boluda... ¿qué te pasa?
[Caption 3, Cuatro Amigas > Pilot > Part 3]

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Our third installment of Cuatro Amigas -- a very Sex and the City-like Argentine drama -- opens in the ladies' bathroom, where we get a chihuahua's eye view of Elena and Rita's taste in intimate apparel. They are chatting intimately, addressing each other with che in caption 3 (cited above) and again in caption 13. In Argentina, che means "hey" between friends, or even "yo." Basically, it's a familiar, informal attention getter... che, got that?

If you watched 2004's Motorcycle Diaries, chronicling the cross-continent journeys that raised the consciousness of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, you know how Che got his famous nickname. For the rest of you: The Chileans were simply making fun of young Ernesto's Argentine habit of saying che all the time. (For more Che lore, look for an upcoming biopic called Guerilla, with Benicio del Toro as a very convincing Che.)

Back to the quote cited above, which is translated as, "Hey silly, what's going on with you?" But we put a special note next to our translation of "silly" because that's not the whole story. Boludo or boluda is a slang word in Argentina that roughly means something more like "jerk." Use it with caution in the streets of Buenos Aires because it can be quite an insult, depending on the context. But between girlfriends, it's almost another way to say "hey... you."

 

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