Wednesday 26 October 2005
Miles Kington: How to say 'do not refreeze' in 11 languages
The word for 'salami' is the same in every language - except, oddly, in Italian
But recently I have had a linguistic experience to overshadow all those. I have come in contact with a deep-frozen pizza made by Dr Oetker. I don't know what the pizza was like, as it was consumed by my son and one of his friends, but on the back it contained instructions for cooking the pizza in 11 different languages. Eleven ! What bliss. And as I refused to let them throw the packet away, I now know how to say "If food has thawed, do not refreeze" in more languages than I shall ever use.
"Nachdem Auftauen, nicht wieder entfrieren."
"Non ricongelare dopo lo scongelamento."
"Ne plus récongeler après décongelation."
"Far inte frysas efter upptining ..." etc etc
That last one is in Swedish, and there is meant to be a little o above the "a" in "Far", but I don't know how to do that on my keyboard ...
How do I know it is Swedish? Because above every different panel there is a small flag of the nation where the language comes from, and I recognise the Swedish flag. Some panels have more than one flag. The panel in English has two flags, our flag and the flag of Ireland. The French panel has no less than three flags, because French is also spoken in Belgium and Switzerland, and the Swiss flag also appears over the German panel, where it shares a space with the Austrian flag. I had not known till now that the Austrian flag was a horizontal white line between two red lines. But I do now. What an educational pizza.
The original pizza had cheese, salami, ham and mushrooms on its "thin, crispy base", and you will be interested to know that the word for "salami" is the same in every language, ie "salami". Except, oddly enough, in Italian, where it is "salame", and in Finnish, where it is "salamia".
The word for mushroom is a variant on "champignons" in almost every language. (Even in the German panel, which is odd, as I seem to remember that there is a perfectly good German word, "Pilz".) The Norwegians try to disguise the "champignon" origin by spelling their word "sjampingjong", but you don't fool me, gents.
The only people who don't go along with a variant on "champignon" are the British, of course, and the Italians, who call them "funghi prataoili", which turns out to mean "field mushrooms". Why do the Italians have to be reassured about the origin of their fungi when nobody else in Europe seems to mind? Very curious.
Even more curious is the fact that Dr Oetker seems to be ignorant of any French word for "crispy", as in "thin, crispy base". The Germans have "knusprig", which I like, and the Italians "croccante", the Spanish "crujiente" and the Dutch "knapperig", but when it comes to the French panel it just says, tight-lipped, "Pizza a pâte fine", or "Pizza with thin dough". So they haven't got a word for "base" either?
Actually, the French haven't got a proper, separate word for "dough" either, really. "Pâte" has to do duty for "dough" and "pastry" and "batter" and "paste" and (when in the plural) for "pasta" as well, so if ever a word was hopelessly multi-tasking in French kitchens, it is "pâte"...
You will be glad to hear that we have run out of space, and you are thus spared a small dissertation on how the lovely poetic line "Pizza is ready when cheese is golden yellow" sounds elsewhere in Europe.
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