What do you call an ice cream scoop in Spanish? Yes, I know, most people would say cuchara para helado, but that is not its proper name. Specifically, that serving utensil, in Spanish, is called a funderelele, which is the title of Laura García Arroyo’s terrific little book of wonderful-sounding yet rarely-used Spanish terms. Funderelele y más hallazgos de la lengua is her attempt to share her love of words and encourage a more precise use of the Spanish language.
Laura is a Spaniard living in Mexico City who grew up loving words. Her parents would read her to sleep, resulting in a lifelong love of the written word, and everywhere they moved the family’s books joined them; they were members of the family, as well. She is a translator and linguist, and has kept lists over the years of fascinating vocabulary she’s come across. Funderelele is based off that list.
The dictionary of the Real Academia Española contains 80,000 words, to which we could easily add another 70,000 Americanisms; there may be as many as 300,000 words in the Spanish language. It therefore saddens Laura that the average Spanish speaker uses only about 300 words in daily conversation—though most people have a passive (recognize the word when reading it but don’t use it in conversation) vocabulary of up to 4000 words. Laura is on a mission to help us improve our vocabulary, to love the Spanish language, to put into daily use some of its gorgeous terms.
Have you ever picked up a book that had some of its pages uncut, so that they stuck together? That’s called a libro intonso. Timar is what two lovers do when they understand one another with just one glance. I suppose that could apply to parents and children as well. The Spanish word for doppelgänger? Sosias. The smell of wet rain? Petricor. Isn’t that a cool word to know? Reminds me of some of the emotion-laden words in my beloved Japanese that have no equitable translation in English. How to say “fake news” in Spanish? Paparrucha. What about that gorgeous red color of the clouds we so often see in Mazatlán at sunset? We can communicate that beauty in just one word: arrebol.
One of my favorites in the book is giste, which refers to beer foam, that which so often remains on your lip as a mustache when you drink. And how do you describe someone who steps on the accelerator as soon as the traffic light turns yellow? Lord knows Mazatlán is full of people doing just that—flavilabando, which is much quicker and easier to say—with the slight downside that no one will understand you.
Most every word in the Funderelele has a two-page spread: a drawing at left with the word’s definition, and a short essay about it on the right. Its 152 pages aren’t meant to be read in one sitting, though that could easily be done. This is a book to have handy to peruse, so that the words insinuate themselves into our vocabulary and bring their history and culture into each of us and our daily lives.
In Laura’s opinion books don’t exist to make us happy, their purpose is to stir us, to move us: to feel, to take action, to think more deeply. She wonders why we spend more time dressing to present ourselves than we do in choosing our words, which she feels can count for much more in communicating our identity to the world. Like me, Laura feels she started to learn her birth language in a meaningful way when she began studying a second language; for her this was French, when she was in elementary school in Belgium.
I heard about Funderelele and Laura García via my book club. I’ve told you about my terrific book club in an earlier post—I am absolutely blessed with intelligent, talented, funny and interesting friends there and enjoy it thoroughly. Starting last year, Laura Medina, our wonderful local natural resource who has owned Casa del Caracol bookstore for the last 14 years, has organized an annual “gathering of the clans,” a reunion of all the registered book clubs in town. This year that included 16 different clubs who met in Casa Hass this Thursday evening.
In preparation, each club chose a minimum of ten books that our members loved, and which we wanted to share with others. Laura would lay the books out on a table during the event, one member from each club would be our representative, and choose new books for our club. It sounded like an interesting way to get some new books in the club library, although I’ll admit it was very painful saying adios to some favorite volumes.
The exchange was fun, and I’m excited about our club’s new books. I enjoyed sharing our favorites. The highlight of the evening was the talk. But, I have to tell you, the food was also wonderful! Oralia Medina makes delicious desserts, most Mazatlecos know that. But I did not know that she also makes some incredible savories: ceviche with coconut milk and mustard and empanadas with pumpkin seeds among my favorites.
Laura (Medina), thank you for your dedication to promoting reading in Mazatlán, and to always being ready to order the book we need or want. Thank you for arranging such a lovely and enjoyable evening for all of us. You are yet one more reason we are blessed to call this port home.