Edible Expressions: A Linguistic Guide to Eating in Queens

By & | February 20, 2017
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Queens is a feast for the senses. From chow mein in Flushing to jerk chicken in Jamaica, it’s full of tantalizing tastes and smells. But it hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves for what it provides the ear: a true global symphony, voices from every continent, occasionally in discord, but mostly in harmony.

It’s estimated there are 138 different languages spoken in the borough. Queens is home to the English and Bukhari, a Jewish language with more speakers in Queens than its native Central Asia; French and Vlashki, an endangered Croatian dialect. But for all their differences, both social and syntactic, everyone’s conversation eventually turns toward the same thing: food.

That’s because food doesn’t only nourish the physical body—it feeds the bond between people. Just as breaking bread together can be the start of a friendship that transcends taste and heritage, so to can sharing the words we use to talk about our food and the way it makes us feel. That’s why we’ve put together this collection of edible expressions from a few of Queens’ many hungry tongues.

All illustrations by Peach Davis.

Mottainai is the Japanese word for "what a waste!" and is the perfect word to describe the peculiar regret of being unable to finish a meal. Pålegg is a Norwegian catchall for anything that goes inside a sandwich, from fish (Norwegians like their seafood pickled) to Nutella. Teguk is a Malay word for drinking not in standard sips, but in huge gulps.Chi ku is a Chinese word that literally translates as "eat bitterness," but it's typically employed when a parent is reminding a child that life requires us all to endure hardships.Cavoli riscaldati is an Italian word that translates directly to "reheated cabbage," but how often do you discuss that? The wordLagom is a Swedish phrase for "just the right amount," earning it the fitting title of the Goldilocks word.Abbiocco is a word we all need. It's Italian for the drowsiness you feel after a filling meal, a phenomenon scientists have tied to changing levels of hormones in the brain. Empacho is a Spanish word for the pain that comes from eating too much—a sensation we all unfortunately recognize. Go nuts is a common English phrase for when someone feels crazy or behaves erratically. Going bananas means roughly the same thing.

Article from Edible Queens at http://ediblequeens.ediblecommunities.com/eat/edible-expressions-linguistic-guide-eating-queens
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