Monday, November 10, 2008

The tale of the purloined lúcuma

I've talked before about how I love how Spanish does a great job of having consistent suffixes (yeah, suffices) to change one word into another. I believe I've talked about -azo, which means to hit something with the aforementioned item. A cabezazo is a header in soccer (from cabeza, head), a botellazo is getting hit with a bottle, and I've even coined (I think) portazo, which is the dreaded dooring to an unfortunate cyclist (from puerta, door).

Another one that I love, because let's face it, I am a word collector, is how you can name a fruit tree (for the most part) by changing the last a in a fruit's name to an -o. For example, an orange tree is a naranjo (from naranja, orange), a cherry tree is a cerezo (from cereza, cherry), or a guindo (from guinda, another type of cherry, who knows what the difference is). An apple tree is a... class? what would it be? apple is manzana. Right, manzano.

Of course, there are exceptions. For some reason a plum tree is a ciruelillo, not a ciruelo (ciruela, plum), and a canelo tree is not where cinnamon bark comes from (canela, cinnamon). But I took my chances this the other day when a lúcuma fell out of tree in the yard of the hostel I stayed at in Viña del Mar this weekend, whereupon I very narrowly missed getting a lucumazo.I looked up and said, oh! it's a... lúcumo? And so it was.

And while the English convention of saying apple tree, orange tree, cherry tree is probably easier, I just love it how you can go around cutting off letters and adding suffixes to words in Spanish and making, for example, trees out of fruit. And I also love very much eating one of my purloined lúcumas with vanilla icecream. It makes everything mapley. And now I've gone and done it, what Frank McCourt exhorted my sister's creative writing class in high school to do. Create a phrase that's never before been uttered. His example was dragon placenta. Mine is purloined lúcuma. His might have more staying power, but mine, I believe, is tastier.

7 comments:

Stephen said...

Oh my goodness... that was totally out of the blue... I'm still too shocked by the "dragon placenta" picture in my head to laugh...

I try to come up with my own words and phrases all the time. It's kind of cool speaking something that's never been uttered. Down side is: there usually is a reason it hasn't been uttered before.

Ok shock is over, that was hilarious! LOL!

Your sister said...

I do love languages where you can make up words, and even if you're not quite right, people will know what you mean. Hebrew is like that. My favorite was my friend's invented Hebrew/English word l'heet-upset. l'heet is the prefix meaning "to become" or "to get," and since there was no word matching "upset" exactly in Hebrew, she coined her own. Hebrew/English speakers all understood what she meant.

I had forgotten about the Dragon Placenta, but not Frank Mc Court. I recently re-read what he wrote in my HS yearbook... what a great teacher!

See you soon!

Nimble said...

Hi Eileen,

I followed a link from Beverlyrevelry to find your blog. Thanks for the fun read. I like your writing about language and place. And now that I've looked it up, I hope I'll get to taste a lucuma one day.

Eileen said...

@stephen, thanks for the hilarity kudos!

@schvester, I think I remember l'heet upsati, wasn't it?

@nimple, happy to see you along for the ride. Always delightful to fill this crazy bus with characters!

Eileen said...

that was supposed to be nimble, btw!

Sharon said...

The difference between guinda and cereza is actually very easy: cereza is sweet and guinda is sour. That's it.

Juan Edo. Méndez Arias said...

"(yeah, suffices)"

There's somethings that seem to be quite similar in English since they also take suffixes. For instance, the way you talk about occupations or what certain objects are used for also take suffixes. So if somebody works, his/her job would be followed by the suffix ...ER!

Can we name a few jobs?
Sing...
Write...
Engine...
Bank...
Law...?
Cook...?
Act...?
Wait...?
Office...?

Things!
Count...
Mark...
Burn...
Twist...
Lock...

What about those who are applying for a job:
Trainee
Employee
Elviee?
Wannabe?

When learning English, these are quite easy to learn. The exceptions though, are a pain in the neck. Some of these are examples I give in class to show how "tarzanico" English actually is. I mentioned some examples, but I guess you know many more!

I love lúcumas, too!

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PD: Have you tried Chirimoya Alegre?