This is what happens every time we plan a road trip, build furniture, shop for beverages and basically perform any activity that involves measurements.
Don’t get me started on navigating floors in large buildings…
I can’t get used to “the hidden tax” in the United States. Personally, I like my prices right out there where I can see them.
So, where’s the trick? In the US there’s no such thing as the VAT 1 and the prices you see in stores aren’t the final prices. Instead, the sales tax is added at the check-out, so the final amount is slightly higher than what you had anticipated. Your foreign self might wonder whether you are mathematically challenged or the victim of a grocery scam. Quite the financial clusterf**k.
I have been looking into indigenous languages lately, so today I’m bringing you some Nahuatl loan words that you probably use every day. But first things first:
The Spanish language has tons of words of Nahuan origin, and some of them made it into English through a process of secondary borrowing. Let’s take a look:
Tomato was borrowed from the Spanish tomate in 17th century. It’s a compound of tomohuac (swelling, fatness) and atl (water), used to refer to spherical fruits or berries with many seeds and watery pulps.
Avocado was borrowed from the Spanish aguacate in the 17th century. Popular opinion suggests that ahuacatl means testicle due to the the shape of avocados.
Jalapeno was borrowed from the Spanish jalapeño in the 20th century. This type of pepper is native to the Mexican municipality of Jalapa, named after the Aztec Xalapan. The latter is a compound of xalli (sand), atl (water) and pan (place).
Chili 3, the loan word for spicy peppers, was introduced in the 17th century. By the way, there are a few theories that explain the etymology of the toponym Chile, none of which is related to the spicy condiment.
Xocoatl was introduced into Spanish and French in the 17th century. It’s a compound made of xococ (bitter) and atl (water), and it originally referred to the drink made of water and cacao seeds.
That’s all for now! If you are into linguistic curiosities, check out more illustrated articles here.
I’ve been in bumper cars that had more legroom than my last transatlantic Failta flight 4. This can be the only reasonable explanation behind the so called cabin comfort:
Useless fun fact: this airline started flying commercially in 1929 with the slogan “Speed, Comfort and Safety”. A year later, their slogan changed to “Speed, Comfort and Convenience”. Should we be concerned?
Just when I thought I had figured out British accents, I encountered yet another linguistic challenge in the UK: the abundant lexicological differences between the American English that I grew up with, and the vocabulary that Brits actually use in their day-to-day lives.
Most commonplace words are fairly easy to figure out: lift, loo, biscuit, rubbish, parcel, jam… no problem there. But some might be a a bit trickier. So, without further ado, here are some book illustrations depicting memorable awkward situations 2 .
For instance, Brits refer to pants as “trousers”. If you find yourself in a clothing store and indicate that you don’t wear pants, they’ll think that you are THAT weirdo who goes through life without ever using underwear.
There was also the time when a colleague invited me to a party after work, and immediately thereafter asked if I had a rubber. Of course he meant eraser, not the birth control item. I’m glad someone clarified this to me and no one had to be reported to human resources…
If someone offers you a meal from their boot, don’t be grossed out. They mean their car trunk 2.
Truth be told, learning these lexical differences turned out to be an amusing experience. What I didn’t find that amusing was the self-righteous attitude of linguistic supremacy that some Brits hold towards British English.
My colleagues, polite as they might have been, always felt the need to point out my spelling “mistakes”. An acquaintance gave me a list of British shows in the hope that I would “get rid of that horrifying American accent”. Some even told me that, whenever they heard someone speaking American English, they automatically deem them to be uneducated folks 3.
But here’s the thing: thinking that your version of the language is the quintessence, the most lustrous and the only one acceptable is like saying that X is the best food or Y is the best book ever written. There are tons of delicious meals, thousands of inspiring books and multiple versions of any given language, each as fascinating and enriching as the next. Diversity is key.
I wonder if it’s an island thing.
Do you have a preferred version of English? Do certain accents have positive or negative connotations for you? Leave a comment!