The last couple days I’ve been fighting off the winter blues. The day after my birthday was a particular let down because people who had greeted me with squeals, showered me with attention, and wished me well were back to their normal modus operandi: treating me just like everyone else.
In addition, it has been so cold outside that taking a deep breath makes me feel like my lungs are turning into ice. I try to think of myself as hard cord, but running outside is out of the question when weather.com tells me it “feels like -22.” It’s been taking an bit of extra effort to get out of bed these past two days.
But oh, how it’s worth it. Today, a friend who is learning Arabic, shared the most wonderful thing.
In our colloquial version (I think it’s either Syrian or Saudi), the word for winter is pronounced sheeta. But in Modern Standard Arabic, it’s shita.
That just had me smiling because it’s so perfect. It got me thinking to all the funny little double entendres I’ve been privy to from learning various languages. A few of my favorites:
- In Hindi, the word for milk is pronounced Dude-ah. The word for cow is pronounced Guy-ah.
- In Wolof, to understand is prounounced “diggin” and “be” is an article. Thus, if said fast and slightly slurred, the phrase “American be diggin’ duh Wolof” translates to “This American Understands Wolof.” A sleek combination of ebonics and a Wisconsin accent.
- The Wolof word for marijuana is Cali.
- In Wolof, the word for cat is pronounced “moose”
- The Wolof word for teacher is pronounced like “Jungle Cat” in English with a thick Indian accent
- The French verb arroser means to water (the garden). I always picture a Canadian standing next to a bed of flowers, remarking, “A Rose, eh?”
- My parents’ names, Kathy and Doug, are indistinguishable to non-native English speakers from the words Cat and Dog.
- In Wisconsin English, bubbler means drinking fountain.
- In Wisconsin English, brat is not a whiny, spoiled kid but rather a type of sausage that you eat.
I am sure that if I got a bunch of linguists together, we could continue this conversation all day. For now, I am happy to have jogged the mind a bit and pulled these phrases from the catacombs. The fact they are still there, makes me grateful.