Top 20 New Words

Your family is very nice, especially for Americans.

-compliment from our international guest

My sister brought home a couple of international students for Christmas, one from China and the other from Columbia.  This was the Chinese student’s first Christmas (once she fell in love with “The Spirit of Christmas,” we regretted not buying her a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament!), and so we shared a lot of new vocabulary words with her.  

  • Yucky
  • Sled
  • Slippery
  • Shovel
  • Shepherds
  • Manger
  • Communion
  • Disciple
  • Advent
  • Wreath
  • Congregation
  • Baptism
  • Hymnal
  • Wiggily
  • Obnoxious
  • Mince meat
  • Fudge
  • Snowplow  (after almost getting run over on our midnight sledding expedition)
  • Macy’s Day Parade (thank you, Miracle on 34th St.)
  • And every tenth word in “The Night Before Christmas”:  ’twas, stirring, stockings, St. Nicholas, kerchief, lawn, clatter, sash, shutter…

Words are important.  On my first day in Spain, I accidentally asked for “la cucaracha” instead of “la cuchara.”    Fortunately, my roommates figured out that I wanted a spoon instead of a cockroach!

My new words in Spanish consisted of a lot of curse words and galleguismos.  Now that I’m working in a bilingual church comprised mostly of Latin American immigrants, I’ve had to drop both of those categories from my vocabulary.  Instead, I’m learning a rich Spanglish vocabulary, like “el parking.”

I compare all of this to my three semesters of Greek, when we had to learn every word used in the New Testament 50x or more (we had Greek quizzes on all words used 12x or more, but I can’t say that I learned those as thoroughly!).  The vocabulary we use says something about our priorities and values.

If you had a non-English-speaking guest in your house, what words would be the most important for you to communicate your beliefs and experiences?

[comment by clicking “add a comment” at the top of the post!]

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5 Responses to Top 20 New Words

  1. Rachel says:

    Hey now, “el parking” is the word in Spain, too. Or at least in Catalunya and Castilla y León. But yeah, I’ve made that cuchara/cucaracha mistake before, too (and generally just avoid saying cuchara just in case). I also once said mierda instead of madera.

    • La Peregrina says:

      I didn’t notice “el parking” in Galicia, but I might not have been paying attention!

      I have a friend who assumed that “mierda” meant “pothole” because her host mother shouted “MIERDA!” as they drove over a pothole. Only later, when the same host mother said, “Este reloj es mierda” did she realize that perhaps mierda didn’t mean what she thought it did…

  2. Katie says:

    Hey, I know that friend! 🙂

    GREAT post – how fun! And what a compliment from your visitor. Hilarious!

  3. grandmaedie says:

    Fascinating! When I have had international guests, I have always been amazed at how much communication can take place in spite of the words. Blessings! Edie

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