Featured Words – July 2018

July 27,2018 BARBECUE

Also written BBQ, it is well accepted that the English word barbecue comes from the Caribbean Taino language word barabicu – the name of a rack that could be used as a raised bed, a shelf, or a grill to cook fish and other meats with indirect heat.  In North America, native tribes used this technique for cooking and smoking meat over fire, and when European explorers saw them, started also referring to the technique as barbecue.  Therefore, barbecue may be a noun for the apparatus to grill on, called parrilla or asador in Spanish, or could also be the action of “having a BBQ”, which in Spanish would be a parrillada.  The technique, as a verb, “to barbecue”, translates into Spanish as asar.


If we barbecue some meat on the barbecue, we can have a barbecue.
Si asamos carne en el asador, podemos tener una parillada.


“My favourite moments? When it’s all going swimmingly, the sun’s out and I’ve got a fire going and a nice snake on the barbecue.” – Bear Grylls

“¿Mis momentos favoritos? Cuando todo va fluido, el sol ya salió y tengo el fuego ardiendo y una buena víbora en la parrilla.” – Bear Grylls.

July 20, 2018 TUNA

I have already featured this word on March 10, 2018, but it fits well with the prickly pear note on today’s blog post, so here it is:

This word is a great example of a false cognate (see “Is this Spanglish?”) because it is spelled and pronounced exactly the same in English and Spanish, but it has very different meanings.  In English, tuna refers to the important commercial group of large edible fish that comprises familiar names such as Albacore, Bluefin and Yellowfin; the Spanish word for this fish is atún. In Spanish, tuna is the name for the edible fruit of the paddle cactus, known in English as the prickly pear.


“When I went to Baja last summer, I enjoyed a simple lunch of grilled tuna and prickly pears
“Cuando fuí a Baja el Verano pasado, disfruté un almuerzo sencillo de atún asado y tunas


“Los ojos ven, las manos tocan,
Bastan aquí unas cuantas cosas:
tuna, espinoso planeta coral, … ”        “Himno entre ruinas”, Octavio Paz

“Eyes see, hands touch,
A few things are enough:
prickly pear, thorny coral planet, … ”

July 17, 2018 VANILLA

Flavour extracted from the pods of the plant by the same name.  In Nahuatl, the pods were called tlilxochitl – black flower, after the matured pods, which shrivel and turn black shortly after being picked.  Spanish explorers called it vainilla, the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina – pod.


La vainilla se extrae de las vainas, las cuales contienen pequeñas semillas de color negro.
Vanilla is extracted from the pods, which contain small black seeds.


“If you like vanilla, you’re not going to like “Breaking Bad”…” – Bryan Cranston, actor
“Si te gusta la vainilla, no te va a gustar “Breaking Bad” … – Bryan Cranston, actor

July 7, 2018 GALLETA

The Spanish word to describe a crispy and usually thin baked good, either sweet or salty.  This is a multi-lingual mind twister: galleta comes from the French word galette – a flat and round crusty cake, but a galleta is called biscuit in France, the same word translated to English in England and Australia, and sometimes Canada, but it would be a cookie in the US and other countries (including Canada.)  More confusing than that is that savoury galletas are called crackers, but then, there is graham crackers, which are sweet!


Las galletas de soda se comen por lo regular con queso o mariscos
Soda crackers are eaten for the most part with cheese or seafood


“C is for cookie – that is good enough for me” – Cookie Monster, Sesame Street
“G es por galleta – eso es suficiente para mí” – Monstruo come-galletas, Plaza Sésamo

July 1, 2018 CACAHUATE

The name for “peanut” in Mexico (and Honduras), from the Nahuatl form cacahuatl – cocoa bean; the word was shortened from tlālcacahuatl – earth cocoa bean.  This word prevailed in Spain (Castille) as cacahuete, and was adopted in France as cacahuète (Many French Canadians call it pinotte, or more formally arachide, probably from its scientific name Arachis hypogaea.)  In most South American and Caribbean countries, it is called maní, from the Caribbean language Taino.  In English, there were many other names that came from Africa, such as “goober” or “pindar” (from nguba and mpinda).  It was also called, more accurately, “ground pea” (as it is in fact a legume that grows its pods underground), but in the 1930s the name “peanut” became more popular.


George Washington Carver (1860s – 1943), was an American botanist and inventor.  He promoted alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes to prevent soil depletion, and teach poor farmers how to grow more nutritious crops for their own use.

George Washington Carver (1860s – 1943) fue un botánico e inventor estadounidense.  Promovió cosechas alternativas al algodón, como cacahuate y camote, para prevenir erosion, y enseñar a los agricultores pobres como crecer esos cultivos para su uso.


“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.” – Orson Wells.

“Odio la television. La odio tanto como a los cacahuates. Pero no puedo parar de comer cacahuates.” – Orson Wells.