Tuesday, August 11, 2009

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.

Ye'kwana is for description. The words often sound like what they mean.

Because of this, our home is 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 sweetness...like 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....


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.
"Töwödäjööque!" 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 life...like 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 taste...like 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 with us so we can all have a taste! (NO PROFANITY!)


CKHB said...

I agree!

French: pamplemousse is so much better than "grapefruit".

And Japanese: hikkurikaeru is much more evocative of "to be overturned, toppled, upset".

Jungle Mom said...

CKHB, I just realized you are 'Pippi Longstocking'.
Being a red head myself,she has been my personal hero since I first met her in a book 35 years ago!
I am so honored to have a comment from Pippi!!!

Z said...

There are definitely word meanings which taste better in other languages! Great thought, JM.

I used to joke about BUTTERFLY....Farfalle in Italian, Papillon in French and SHMETERLING in German!! HA!! Kinda loses its flutter, doesn't it, in German!!?

My German husband will be talking in German to someone and suddenly throw in an English word because it's just a better flavor, I guess!?

John_n_Tascha_Piatt said...

I know only one language - but I LOVE your flavor analogies...

I try to find a word that fit the "English" flavor into what I am trying to say - broadens the vocabulary at times :) I've tried to learn other languages - but having no one to practice with makes it kinda hard - and I do not have the ear for it as God has given to some... nor the drive to keep at it... Praise the LORD YOU did :D

And I really enjoyed your "fairy tale" autobiography--quite inspiring, actually

T. Anne said...

Gosh I can't think of any words but you def. shifted my perspective I'll be on the look out for them all day!

Lazy Writer said...

I only speak one language. I took Spanish in high school and a little in college, but the only things I can remember are the numbers...uno, dos, tres, etc.

Denise said...

I'm having a terrible time trying to learn Estonian. Their words are as long as my arm. But I did love saying "iga paev" (eega pav) every day for a whole year. It literally means "every day." It was one phrase that rolled off my tongue.

m - cde said...

We talk to our dogs in spanish- just seems right and I use "basura" instead of rubbish (oops trash) .. In Gibralter they talk a perfect mixture of Spanish and English - its so weird - whatever word fits or sounds best they use.
Like "Father Christmas va a venir tonight so you better be bueno."

Brooke said...

Very interesting... Although I admit I have NO IDEA how to pronounce that Ye'Kwana word! LOL!

Brooke said...

I'm Cilantro. :)

Betty said...

"heiss" let´s you hear the sizzle. It means hot, and I think it sounds better in German.
My mind is drawing a blank, but I agree with you, there are many words that are just better "fitting" in other languages.

FJ said...

My favorite word...


What can I say? All those Camay commercials really hit their mark.

GutsyWriter said...

words in Danish are simple. You can usually guess what they mean as they stick two words together to mean one. For example, golden root is gulerod, which means carrot.

Findalis said...

How about the Yiddish word Kvetch. It means to gripe, but so much more.

People gripe at the weather, they KVETCH at the Democrats.

Yiddish is the type of language in which everyday words seem to pop out at you. Words like Nash (a bite to eat), or shlep (to drag or carry).

LadyFi said...

Cool post! Talking of Pippi - her Swedish name is: Pippi Långstrump.. somehow this sounds so much better!

Brenda said...

I like the Paraguayan word for popcorn, pororo. It just sounds right.

Heather Wheelock said...

My favorite word in Spanish is "guàcala". Just has more effect when you tell your kids not to eat or touch something because it is "guàcala".

Jungle Mom said...

z,HA! the German is a a little rough to the ear!

John and Tascha,I am glad you enjoyed the fairy tale!

T. Anne, So did you come up with any words???

Lazy writer, I bet you know 'taco and burrito' too.

Denise, I can imagine Estonian would be difficult!

m-cde, That's funny, we always talk to our dogs in English so that they are more suspicious of Spanish only speakers for guarding purposes.

Jungle Mom said...

Brooke, cilantro is a staple in my cooking!!!

Betty, Heiss sounds great!!!!

FJ, suave and Camay commercials. Wow, you do remember !!!

Gutsy Writer, That is a great name for carrot! Danish never sounded simple to my ear though.

Findalis, I love those Yiddish words!! Very practical ones too!

Lady Fi, that does sound very Pippi-ish!

Brenda, I always forget to call it this. I still say cotufa. People look at me funny and then I remember that I am in Paraguay, where they don't really speak Spanish but rather, Paraguayan!

Heather, Oh we use that word all the time too! It is great isn't it?