Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oh my cod

Friday night I had dinner at the apartment of some friends.

One of them said something that made me bliss out for a second as I reveled in how much of the culture here was revealed in the space of a few words.*

He was talking about lousy bread. And he described it as "más seco que un bacalao" -- "drier than cod."

Would a fish epithet be the first thing an English-speaker would think of to describe something dry? Of course not. So why did it happen in Spanish? Because he was referring to a form of cod seen here (and immensely popular in Spain): dried salt cod, which is hard as a rock when you buy it and needs to be soaked for days in several changes of water to be edible.

But wait, there's more! What do you call the person who calls the shots? El que corta el bacalao -- the one who cuts the cod.

*This is one of the biggest pleasures of living abroad and speaking a language that is not my native English: the mundane can instantly become fascinating.

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