kindness of strangers

sugar no sugar

sugar no sugar
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Pleased as Punch, in that resinous phrase, that in my first days in Spain I worked out how to say, spelling notwithstanding, “Cafe descafinado con leche, por favor – cafe machinata – muy calliente, y con miele.” This is my strenous coffee order, what Melbourne baristas sneeringly call “the why bother” – in order to convey ‘honey’ I first had to mime little fluttering motions with my elbows trapped by my sides, saying repeatedly ‘azucar, non azucar’ (sugar, not sugar)… When I finally spotted a squeezer of honey on the shelf and pointed to it, the assembled staff turned to each other and started mimicking my mime, going, “Ahhhh, *miele*…”

I love languages but know none apart from German, decayed Bahasa Indonesia, and some shreds of truly pathetic French. But Spanish is glorious. I learned yesterday from some friends who run a bookshop that ‘vacuum cleaner’ is, in English translation, ‘the aspirator’ – that which inhales everything. But let’s not get too carried away – to use that other, far less celebratory phrase: as far as I’m concerned, Nature abhors a vacuum. And I’m with Nature.

8 comments on “sugar no sugar

  1. Hola Jamila! It’s lovely to discuss tongues with ya’ll. Peter, goodness. Zat is very good indeed. I did start out with ‘miele’ in (my version of) the French pronunciation – in cafe after cafe, people were absolutely unable to understand it or even guess – it seems to be pronounced differently here (more like meeyell) and so far seems not to be a culture where people are accustomed to guess-translating or relating to another tongue – for example every time I say, painfully, in pseudo Spanish “I don’t have Spanish” people will respond with voluble strings of Spanish.

    Doesn’t the name Melissa mean honeyed? Isn’t mellifluous ‘honey-tongued’?

    Cathoel Jorss May 22, 2015 at 2:21 pm
  2. ps in case ever in Spain: I have learnt it is important to specify ‘cafe machinata’ (I guess, espresso) because otherwise most likely you will be served a cup on a saucer of hot milk, a neat sachet of Nescafe, and sugar.

    Cathoel Jorss May 22, 2015 at 2:23 pm
  3. i recall me and my roommates kindly asking to borrow the aspirator from our blonde neighbor in Hermosa Beach, California, we could not stop laughing for days in our clean house, the poor woman nearly peed her pants, laughing so hard she cried.

    Eliane May 24, 2015 at 6:21 am
  4. Glad she was laughing and not worrying! If I’d heard that, before this, I would probably tend to assume one of you urgently needed a respirator. Maybe because of the dust? Aha!! It all makes sense.

    Cathoel Jorss May 25, 2015 at 2:05 pm

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