Monday, August 21, 2006

Say What?

Lately, I've been trying things in Indonesian. That means attending church, showing up at Young Single Adult activities, and chatting with taxi drivers. My Bahasa Indonesia is passable, meaning that I can (mostly) follow the gist of a conversation if a)it's one-on-one, b) it's face-to-face, and c) the person speaks loudly and slowly. My vocabulary's also pretty limited right now, which means I, and whoever I'm talking to (not to whomever I'm talking, please note) have to do some guessing.

So the other night I was trying to explain my view on Indonesian desserts to Brother Sam, one of my favorite Church members here. Indonesian food is fantastic, but I am always disappointed with the post-meal offerings; they're not chocolate, they're not very sweet, and they're always vaguely mushy or slimy. I was trying to tell Brother Sam about this, but I didn't know the word "texture." The discussion that followed went something like this:

Hannah: I like the taste of Indonesian desserts, but I don't like the....(pauses to ponder)
Brother Sam: The...?
Hannah: ...the "texture"? Do you know the word "texture"?
Brother Sam: "Texture"?
Hannah: Okay, how to explain...um, like, if I touch something, it feels...(demonstrates touching)
Brother Sam: You stroke your food?
Hannah: No, no, like, for anything. Everything has a "texture." Like, if I touch this desk, it feels...(pats the desk for a minute, then realizes she doesn't know the word for "smooth." Or "rough." Or any texture-related words. Sighs in despair.)
Brother Sam: (stares blankly)
Hannah: (thinking of things with interesting textures) Okay, I'll try again. It's the feeling of something. Like a snake...or like fur...or like oil.
Brother Sam: You think Indonesian desserts taste like snakes?
Hannah: (Searches for a way to explain "mushy." Decides it isn't worth it.)
Brother Sam: (Pulls out an electronic dictionary, looks up "mushy.") Oh, "like pudding"!
Hannah: Yes, like pudding! (Thinks, "I can't believe I just went through all that for the translation "like pudding." Screw circumlocution; I'm buying an electronic dictionary.")

6 comments:

Tolkien Boy said...

Freakishly, I do this sometimes with native English speakers.

(What is that word for "slightly crusty, but inwardly oozing?" Hmmm...)

dimmi said...

Oh, I played this guessing game in Italy. (As it turns out, they basically have no word that means "texture".)

I think yours was more interesting though.

flippin said...

I once had to play circumlocution in the MTC--my comp was the only other one in the district who had any Spanish experience and I had to get him to say the word "nut" using only Spanish. I promise I'm not lying. The magic word for both of us: "cojones". My MTC teacher made me say mild vulgarities in the Center. (Well, I guess I chose to...)

Nectar said...

Funny story.

"Texture" is a hard word to translate, unless you are talking about fabrics. I thought surely there must be a good Italian word for it, but somehow "struttura" doesn't seem quite right. Interestingly, the word "texture" doesn't appear in the scriptures, including the LDS scriptures.

Melyngoch said...

I did it with TB in English just today.

(Yeah, stop thinking that.)

It turns out the word I wanted was "retract". Huh.

Daikon said...

"whoever I'm talking to (not to whomever I'm talking, please note)"

Sweet! I also avoid saying the word "whom", because, well, you know.