Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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 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 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 with us so we can all have a taste! (NO PROFANITY!)


Christie said...

We've talked about this in our family a lot, and also have certain things we prefer to say in certain languages. We had a tough time on furlough, expressing ourselves using ONLY ENGLISH again.

I love the Guarani HAKE! for BE CAREFUL! It's fast and to the point and the sounds fit the meaning. And Spanish DEMACIADO which seems drawn out just like what it means. Don't even get me started on NO MAS....

Gringo said...

I am in agreement with finding different languages better for different situations, and with Spanish being better for emotional expression. "Cariño" says it much better than "affection," especially when done cantante, in the Argentine manner.

I am many years away from living in Latin America, and even in TX do not find that much opportunity to speak Spanish. Maybe at the local Mexican supermarket that has very good prices, or occasionally with a neighbor. Most of my Spanish exposure these days is from reading an occasional book in Spanish. (Unfortunately, also in looking at the occasional Thugo video.)

When I am angry, I revert to Spanish, even though I am many years away from speaking Spanish on a daily basis. Spanish is just better for emotional expresion.