Monday, September 15, 2008

The 'Flavor' of words

When one becomes bilingual or multi-lingual, a strange thing happens. Words begin to have flavor. Certain words just taste better when said in certain languages. That is the only way to describe it...flavor.

For instance, English is a great language for technical words and for teaching concrete matters.

Spanish, is very emotive, full of strong feelings.

Yekwana is for description. The words often sound like what they mean.

Because of this, our home is often full of a mixture of all three languages. A sort of smorgasbord of vocabulary, if you will. Pick and chose whichever your taste buds are desiring.

Some of my favorite words in one language just don't' have a good translation into the other. Yes, you can translate it's meaning, but not it's flavor!

For instance, in Spanish, 'Animado'. Sure, it means excited or motivated but, doesn't "animado" taste sooooo much better????? ' Animado' has texture and cotton candy.

Or the Venezuelan , "Na'guara"!!! I mean...Na'guara just oozes excitement and wonder! So much more flavorful than ,"WOW!" It tastes like caramel candy that sticks around on your teeth for awhile and you pick at it all day.

And then in Yekwana, one of my favorite words is....

get ready....

"Tuwoodajuque!" (sorta, I do not have the correct font)

That words just rumbles around in your mouth and explodes out!


It's a great insult because it is so funny sounding, no one could take it too seriously.
Tuwoodajuque means 'ugly'. But when you say it, it tastes like a mouth full of red hots!!!!

And the word, "Soto". It means 'people', but not just any people. It means 'us', the tribe. And it is such a proud sounding word, "Soto"! Like biting into a piece of dark chocolate! Sharp, bitter, and needs nothing added!

English has some great words as well. One that just makes me giggle is, "Somebody"! Imagine how that sounds to a non -English speaking person! "Somebody" tastes like sparkling cider, it's a funny sort of fizzy words!

The word "logic" sounds so...'logical'! Boring. But necessary for plain bread.

And lately, a tasty word in my mouth has been..."Politics", that sounds like a string of fire works!
It has a spicy taste like curry, fine in moderation, but don't go overboard with it!

Which makes me think of 'Democrat" which has a soury sauerkraut!!! And smells up the kitchen too!

What about "Republican"? It sounds like something solid and traditional. Tastes like a sour dough bread to me. Tough and strong enough to spread some jam or butter on it without it crumbling!

And speaking of flavors, in the words of Emiril Lagasse ...


You Are Cayenne Pepper

You are very over the top and a bit overwhelming.

You have a fiery personality, and you can give anyone a good jolt.

You can easily take things up a couple notches, no matter what crowd you're running with.

I am wondering if any other bilinguals feel this way about words, and if so, how about a word 'tasting'?

Share some words from your language (NO PROFANITY!) with us so we can all have a taste!


Starla said...

Your going to think this funny but I like the word Yahtzee. It is not only a fun game to play, but it's a word for anything. If you get excited, Yahtzee!!! If you mess something up, Oh Yahtzee!!! LOL!!!

Betty said...

Yes our house is very multi lingual. We speak low german mixed with expressions of english/spanish and high german....
One sentence could sound like this:
"Quires take out the basura für mich?" ha ha Just kidding. Not quite that bad, but we really do talk many languages at once.
One word we never seem to replace is garbage. It just sounds right!

~K~ said...

The word for turtle in Russian is "cherry-pa-kha". Not that we have to use it much. But it sounds like such a fun name!

Z said...

betty and my house are's a blend of German, English, French and a tiny bit of Armenian...sentences often start in one language and end in another! (that'd be ME!)

The word Sympathique is takes 15 words to describe it in have to FEEL what it means after hearing it used and feeling what the user comes to you, somehow. But words to define it? TOUGH.

The word for HORSDEURVRES in Hawaian is POO POO. There's a word you don't want to 'taste'! (Smile)

Cracks me up when Mr. Z is prattling away in German on the phone and I hear the word MEETING. I used to ask "What, there's no German word for MEETING?" Cracks me up.

Yes, I think words DO taste you describe. Very interesting thought, JM!!

AI said...

Much like Spanish my native Italian can also be quite emotive. It's not spoken at home but my exchanges with mum are mostly in Italian.

I have always been drawn to a word that that describes something often lacking in the big cities, "Amore".

And hopefully we all know what it means ... much flavor, don't you think?

The Localmalcontent said...

Si, Sabor!

The Localmalcontent said...

Uh, me again, sorry that I didn't read your last paragraph there, JMom. uh heh,heh.

Halito ehta ahh oosiveh dheshoVeyah Christians~!

"Hello to all other (consumate) Christians~!" Choctaw Language.

Brenda said...

I could not agree more, sometimes a Spanish word is the only way. . . in our family its that way too.

Jackie said...

"Re-purete Che'ra'a!" (That's really cool friend! in guarani)
It sounds happy, exciting, friendly and tastes like a crispy empanada with hot meat on the inside. Now I'm hungry.

Jackie said...

Also, here's my list of words in Spanish that just sound better in spanish.

Animado (like mother like daughter)
Desahogarse (so much better than "vent")

Mrs. Who said...

I envy y'all's multi-lingual abilities. I feel so - limited.

Liz said...

Oh boy! everybody has said interesting things!

This happens a lot in our home. There are lots of ecpressions that we say in english or we end up in spanish. Sometimes we make words, verbs.. my favorite is 'rulea' (as in JM rules!)

I also say lots of words in many other languages, because... they sound so much better or funnier.

On a serious note, I learned english whule being a Bible student in the states. I prefer so much to read the Bible in english, I began to understand it better!

Jungle Mom said...

Liz, We do that too! Like 'descombobular'.
Or we do literal translations like, "No se cuadra" becomes, "It doesn't square".

Liz said...

Rita, 'plis' cuádrame el círculo y me dices qué es descombobular???!!!

Suena a... uy! a nada que yo entienda!JAJAJAJA!!!

Jungle Mom said...

Liz, Jejeje! break into pieces. from discombobulate.
Does it square now??? Tu ruleas!!

Jungle Mom said...

pero aqui in Paragauya. VOS Rulas!

Penless Thoughts said...

Very interesting post. Since I'm not bi-lingual I can't add anything except I find words facinating.

This is my spice:
You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by post people.
You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.
You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.


WomanHonorThyself said...

nice post!..yes Shalom means hello, goodbye and peace!

Jane-Jane said...

Cayenne pepper here too!

it was a long travel time considering the flight time of less than 3 hours each way! gotta love flying in the states.

Pam said...

Sister of mine! Are you sure you want ME of all people to submit some of MY words??? How about "Pameleto"? How does that taste to you? I think I made it up years ago, thinking it meant "hammer" in spanish! Now days around our home, everyone knows what a pameleto is!

Pam said...

Oops I forgot to add-

I LOVE The word Republican. It tastes strong and respectful.

Dawn said...

Very interesting! Especially your final thoughts.

My son learned Swahili so he could speak it with his Kenyan wife-to-be. They love to speak in private in front of us - but I love it when she's talking to her family on the phone and she'll be jabbering away in Swahili and throw in a few English words here and there - and doesn't even know she has done it.

mylifesnhshands said...

I now have 4 languages while in thailand.When I went back to my hometown in the philippines, i got messed up with this useful words, HOW MUCH??? in Thai, "tao rai"... twas quiet a hard time remembering my local dialect coz i used this new words everyday...glad i made it.."TAGPILA".. really far...

one thing, everyday in my class, my students are very shy to speak English... so I say... POO..POO..POO which means SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK.... too gross..

Tammy said...

At our house we have a daily "buffet" of Spanish and English. Some words are more succinct in one language or the other, and some just sound better.

I like the word "trinchante" which is the word for a china cabinet. While it's a little tricky to the English tongue, it sounds fragile, like the glass items inside of one.

I love the humility and courtesy in certain Spanish expressions, like "Que manda?" which translates to "Yes? (what did you want to say to me?)" but literally means, "What is your command?" And the lovely expression "Para servirle" (at your service) is still common here in Guatemala.

Pinky said...

Oh, I LOVE this post!
I'm all about imagery.
Sights, smells, tastes.
Excellent, excellent.

MightyMom said...

my favorite word ever is llegare'!

I love the phrase, "quizas mi paso es lento, pero, yo llegare'!"

I may be a turtle, but I'll still see the finish line!! :0) (that's not a translation)

llegare' just fills me with hope. clinging to a goal despite the odds. it's not a taste exactly...but definitely an a big warm enveloping hug from God.


and there's no one word translation for it in English...and a sentence says too much...entiende? said...

I like the flow of the word "twilight"

Kepler said...

I would say it is not so much languages as the associations we have with the society in which those languages are spoken.

I prefer to talk about things of machines and technology in German. Also for other certain things I did "in German" first, like mountaineering.
I love words like Elfenbein for ivory (elf's leg), Streichhölzer for match box or Eichhörnchen for squirrels, with the soft ch sound.

Spanish delights me with its possibilities for expressing so many smells, for its many verb forms and for the endings that can express belittlement or appreciation or anything else: -ito, -illo, -izo, -uelo -azo.
I also like how much of Latin Spanish has kept, something that becomes a good bridge for other Romance languages. I like our soft r and the multiple strong r.

I love how sweet Russian sounds in general and cool ambiguities like mir which means both Earth and peace and svjet, which is world and light. I like how "please" in Russian sounds so much more like a nice please, pazhal(ui)sta.

I like Dutch words like "paddenstoel", which is "chair of the paths" and is the word for mushroom and a word for sadness, verdriet.

I love the power of the English phrasal verbs, which are a little bit similar to the German ones, only that the German ones can be split without pity, as Mark Twain once wrote.

¡Ludicrious! said...

:D I like this post!!


I can't think...

Kepler said...

sorry, I think I wrote the word for "matches" (Streichhölzer)...the word for match box is a little bit longer, Streichholzschachtel :-)

Pen of Jen said...

BAMM!! Lol

As for Bilingual words...I don't know but we combined words and phrases of Spanish and English that make Pen of Jen dialogue often unique.

Trivia...if you are raised on a variety of languages-what language do you dream in??? Bill-both Spanish and English

btw-combining multi cultures combines food combos that boggle the mind. I love to have guests over and see what surprises them.

cube said...

Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite Spanish expressions:

"Por si las moscas." (just in case)

"Mosca muerta". (a deadbeat)

"Esqueleto rumbero". (?) we just thought it was a funny image.

Liz said...

Rita, you taught me a new word in english and spanglish!, hehe.

For the record I also love Emeril, my spice was cilantro:

You Are Cilantro

The bad news is that there are some people who can't stand you.
The good news is that most people love you more than anything else in the world.
You are distinct, unusual, fresh, and very controversial. And you wouldn't have it any other way.

The Hermit said...

Alas, the injunction on profanity sadly limits my vocabulary in most languages! ;-)

Gayle said...

I'm Basil: "You are quite popular and loved by most people.
You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.
You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good."

I don't know how they came up with that. I don't have a "mild temperament." LOL! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm gentle unless riled up, but get me riled up and gentleness is a thing of the past! LOL!

I like your post. I've often thought of words as having flavor. Although I speak a little Spanish and a little German, I am far from multilingual, but one doesn't really have to be if they enjoy the sound of words, as the English language is a conglomeration of many different languages. One of my favorites is "Pistaschio". Another one is "haberdashery". Yeah, I know they both have to do with food. But I love good Bavarian Sauerkraut and specialize in making it. Please don't equate it with "Democrats", Rita. LOL!

Z's comment cracked me up: "The word for HORSDEURVRES in Hawaian is POO POO." ROTF!

The Merry Widow said...

As in, "poo-poo platter", which I love...
I came out basil also...hmmmmm, I see(or taste) myself as a good curry. Complex, but fragrant and a great finish to the palate.
The one I remember was from my parents speaking Portuguese in front of me...from when they were in Brasil...and that's, "facia boca"...or, "shut your face". That one always struck me as funny, I could just see the eyes and everything folding together. LOL!


Kimberly said...

Of all things..... I'm garlic! It says I can leave a lasting impression! Hehehehehe I'm not quite sure that's a good thing!

Steve n Vickie said...

Funny you would ask. I just wrote about sayings. Mexicans love to say "que fue bien padre. o este es padrisimo". In English we say it was the best, cool, awesome . . . but when translated literally "It was really dad" :D LOL and when you really like something "It was the fatherest".
How's that for flavor? It sounds so much better in spanish :D

My favorite spanish word is Champulin = grasshopper.
sapo sounds better than toad.
This was a really fun post.
Thanks for sharing.

Thursday's Child said...

In Lebanon Arabic is the first language, most are French-educated, and many speak English as well. So in one sentence you'll have all 3. As one t-shirt says, "Hi. Kifak? Ca va?"