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“The suffix ‘naut’ comes from the Greek and Latin words for ships and sailing. Astronaut suggests ‘a sailor in space.’ Chimponaut suggests ‘a chimpanzee in sailor pants’.”
― Mary Roach, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Guacamole is testicle juice, but avocados are not testicles

I was craving guacamole the other day and was forwarded this article concerning the origins of the words avocado and guacamole.

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On avocado: According to Scott at Today I Found Out, “the word avocado comes from a Nahuatl Indian (Aztec) word ahuácatl, meaning testicle” and furthermore that “in Spanish, ahuácatl became aguacate and eventually avocato and then avocado“.

Here is the first known written source of avocado in English:

1697   W. Dampier New Voy. around World vii. 203   The Avogato Pear-tree is as big as most Pear-trees..the Fruit as big as a large Lemon.

While it may be true that ahuácatl means testicle, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the word did not transform into aguacate or avocato. Instead, avocado, which already existed, was a popular substitution. This means that we have a case of two forms which could have run concurrently but the avocato form won in layman’s circles over the more scientific aguacate. Ahuácatl didn’t morph into avocato, though there are the words aguacat and avocat in French, which are quite similar. Another similar form in English includes avigato and some sources suggest this could be the source of alligator (as in alligator pear, another name for Persea gratissima).

In sum, the word avocado we use today has a form that does not reflect the etymology we will see below, of guacamole.

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On guacamole:

Guacamole, on the other hand, is a different case. The article I linked above would have guacamole take its origins from “Nahuatl Indian ahuacamolli, which is compounded from ahuácatl and molli, the latter word meaning ‘sauce’ or ‘soup'”. Unfortunately, this takes for granted that ahuácatl comes from the word for testicle.

There is an excellent Nahuatl dictionary here, which suggests that the form “auacamulli” dates all the way back to 1571, and we can’t forget that guacamole comes into English only through Spanish.

A search through the Nahuatl dictionary reveals among the occurrences of guacamole or ahuacamolli one source that provides “testicle” as a possible definition for the word, and it is by Frances Karttunen (An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl). By the way, one reviewer of this dictionary lauds Karttunen for fixing the trouble of having to go through Spanish or French to work on Nahuatl because this finally gives a great resource for working on the language through English.

I’m no Nahuatl expert, but the De Molina text from the 16th century focuses on the, shall we say, more edible/botanical aspect of the ahuacatl.

So, yes, avocado could have come from a word meaning testicle, but the testicle-type word wasn’t used to describe the fruit in Spanish, only the guacamole, as far as I can see. Go ahead and order the Baja Chili Salad at Wendy’s, hold the testicle juice, and tell them it’s in the name of linguistics.

“The academic world was marching toward ever more specialized knowledge, expressed in ever more dense jargon.”
― Michael Crichton, The Lost World

Mince alors!

This movie just came out:

The trailer begins with a man telling his wife: “Depuis qu’on est à Paris, je suis stressé, je bosse comme un malade; je ne m’occupe plus de toi.”

Essentially, he says he’s been neglecting her and wants to reward her to apologize for it. The “reward” in question is a ticket to a slimming clinic.

The synopsis in French here. English below:

—Nina is young, beautiful and a little bit round. Unfortunately, her husband Gaspard only likes women who are skinny as twigs… especially since they moved to Paris to launch their new edgy swimwear line. To try to seduce him all over again, Nina accepts – with a heavy heart – his gift of a ticket to visit a slimming clinic in Brides-les-Bains, considered the last hope for those who have tried everything.

There, she meets Sophie, a beautiful lawyer from Marseille who is as much of a control freak about her body as she is about her heart. Not to mention Emilie, a chubby housewife who’s proclaims “Big is beautiful” while her love life is at a standstill and her weight is starting to put her at risk.

Anyway, gender and body issues aside, what’s most immediately interesting linguistically is the title Mince alors!

French mince in its primary meaning is “skinny”, which rings true to the theme of the film. “Go to the clinic and ahah; you’re skinny!”

However, mince is also an interjection or mild swear along the lines of “damn… crumbs… criminy”.

But the expression Mince alors means “holy cow!”

I’d be interested in knowing what the English version title would be.

Arthur Chevalier – La grenouille

Belle chanson pour travailler le conditionnel.

Conditionnel présent

Conditionnel passé

Propositions hypothétiques avec si

Il existe une question que je me pose parfois
Savoir c’que j’aurais fait si tout dépendait de moi
Si t’étais ce créateur dont on parle avec foi
Aurais-tu choisi de prendre une autre voie ?
Devant chaque fenêtre y’aurait des monts et merveilles
On changerait peut-être même la couleur du soleil
Les hommes et les femmes auraient de majestueuses ailes
Et même les oiseaux auraient aussi des oreilles

La vie n’est pas parfaite,
Mais il suffit d’un peu d’imagination
Pour rendre les gens heureux
De belles histoires, un peu de magie
Pour pouvoir goûter l’arôme du paradis, du paradis

Ohoho, cholestérol serait le nom d’un poisson,
Les centrales nucléaires seraient des parcs d’attraction
On n’aurait jamais entendu parler d’la guerre,
Et tous les hommes d’affaires auraient la tête de Drucker
Tous les matins on saluerait nos voisins,
Toutes les femmes ressembleraient à des mannequins
Notre plus grand cauchemar serait de n’pas se réveiller
Et pouvoir profiter d’une autre belle journée

La vie n’est pas parfaite,
Mais il suffit d’un peu d’imagination
Pour rendre les gens heureux
De belles histoires un peu de magie
Pour pouvoir goûter l’arôme du paradis, du paradis

Ohoho, tu vois mon ami
Ce n’est pas compliqué de prendre le temps de rêver
De voir la vie sous un autre jour,
De se laisser envahir d’un peu d’amour
Le seul espoir, se laisser parcourir
Par toute l’immensité d’un simple sourire
Et les grenouilles chanteraient ohoho
Et les oiseaux répondraient ehehehe

La vie n’est pas parfaite,
Mais il suffit d’un peu d’imagination
Pour rendre les gens heureux
De belles histoires un peu de magie
Pour pouvoir goûter l’arôme du paradis, du paradis

Tu sais, la vie n’est pas parfaite,
Mais il suffit d’un peu d’imagination
Pour rendre les gens heureux
De belles histoires un peu de magie pour
Pouvoir goûter l’arôme du paradis, du paradis

—-

For those who don’t read French, this song uses gnomic present tense verbs and sets up a hypothetical “better” world using the conditional. I haven’t seen a lot of songs that make such great use of present and past conditionals. I’m not sure at what level this song would be comprehensible… maybe late A2/B1.

Faber Drive – Candy Store

Here’s a recent hit that I find absolutely brimming with semantic richness. Very sweet (hah) and brilliantly done. The lyrics are below. In bold – proprietary names. In italicschamps lexical of confectionary goods, but more generic. Underlined: spots where the multiple meanings elicit the strongest affective response (my gut reaction; obviously there are plenty more throughout the whole song).

Video:

Lyrics:

I can’t wait another night to see you
Gotta satisfy my sweet tooth
A little like Reese’s fallin’ into Pieces
Tell me there’s a way to do this
I just wanna kiss your hot lips
Girl you make me melt like chocolate
Jawbreaker you got the kiss that I wanna savour

Oh oh oh oh
Lifesaver you’re my life saver
Oh oh oh oh
You got the love with a thousand flavours

Chorus: Oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
I know your love is such a sugar rush and I can never get enough
I’m like oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
Yeah honey you’re the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen before
I’m like a kid in a candy store

Baby I’m love sick
I just gotta get my next fix
Pour a little sugar on this
Heart breaker
You be the dough and I’ll be the baker
Mr. Christie never knew
A recipe as hot as you
You’re Rihanna I’m Eminem (M&M)
Melts in your mouth, not in your hands

Oh oh oh oh
Lifesaver you’re my life saver
Oh oh oh oh
You got the love, you got the good flavour

Chorus: Oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
I know your love is such a sugar rush and I can never get enough
I’m like oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
Yeah honey you’re the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen before
I’m like a kid in a candy store

How you doin’ sugar
You’re sweeter than dessert nice to meet you
The name is Ish, I’ll admit it I gotta sweet tooth
But that’s ight, I promise that I won’t bite
Girl, unless that’s something that you’re into
I’m playin’, I’m sayin’ you’re with it in the song
And there ain’t no competition
You’re in a league of your own
Gotcha hooked soon as I get you alone
You could bet that
Now break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat

I can’t wait another night to see you
Gotta satisfy my sweet tooth
Lifesaver you’re my life saver
You got the kiss with a thousand flavours

Chorus x2: Oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
I know your love is such a sugar rush and I can never get enough
I’m like oh oh oh oh and I really want more oh oh oh
Yeah honey you’re the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen before
I’m like a kid in a candy store

—-

I hadn’t heard of Heart Breakers before, but they do exist according to this, something like Gobstoppers: “The Heart Breakers are a similarly layered candy with a sweet & sour chalk center. The color variety is different here than the regular bright versions in the box and lacking a green/apple one. But they gain a pink/strawberry.”

Starbucks Blonde Roast and NLP

This morning I spotted a new ad circulating for Starbucks Blonde Roast, presumably created because many people find Starbucks coffee to be too dark. It read:

A Starbucks coffee for Canadians who don’t think they like Starbucks coffee. Starbucks Blonde Roast.

What I’d like to focus on here is the significance in the placement of the word “don’t”.

Consider the following situation: I’ve decided that I don’t like Starbucks coffee. Therefore, I (a Canadian, Cx) have a thought in my mind (Tx), and that thought is that I don’t like Starbucks coffee (~Lsx).

Hence – ∃x & Cx & Tx(~Lsx) – There exist Canadians who have in their mind that they do not like Starbucks coffee. (meaning 1)

However, examining the text of the ad more closely, we can draw a slightly different implication from it due to the semantic flexibility provided by the placement of “don’t”.

Consider: ∀xCx & ~(Tx Lsx) -> Lbx

For every Canadian who does not have the thought that they like Starbucks coffee, they will like the Blonde Roast (meaning 2)

Now, of course, in casual conversation, one might say “I don’t think I like X”, meaning “I don’t like X, but I’m open to being persuaded otherwise” (meaning 3). Both and 3, valid interpretations of the ad text, share the common ground of portraying the consumer as an individual who can be convinced of the error of his ways.

Poking around a bit for internet usage of both phrases:

1) Ghits for I think I don’t like X- 12 million +

Unfortunately. one example of this phrase + Starbucks does not contain the same meaning as what could be gleaned from the ad (it’s just an assertion followed by an explanation, though it does of course give ~Lsx) :

I think I don’t like Starbucks because everything tastes so burnt

2) Ghits for I don’t think I like X- 18 million+ including 6 results for I don’t think I like Starbucks.

—-

Still, Starbucks’ wording of the ad sneaks around the notion that there are people who just don’t like their coffee. Instead, by placing the “don’t” in front of “think”, i.e. saying “Canadians who don’t think they like Starbucks” and not “Canadians who think they don’t like Starbucks“, Starbucks is subtly suggesting that it’s not the case that people have negative thoughts about their coffee, but rather that they haven’t formed an opinion or simply haven’t discovered Starbucks Blonde Roast (b). What strengthens this is the addition of “think” to the mix because it suggests that taste is a matter of opinion and regulated by thought, a trick rather characteristic of neuro-linguistic programming.

I, for one, usually make coffee at home, and I don’t always go to Starbucks, but when I do, I order Blonde Roast.