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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Menta or hierbabuena?

One of the spells of foreign languages is that they aren't just a bunch of new words, properly ordered by the laws of its grammar. Language reflects how native people is, how they think, how they live. A language is the way we express ourselves and how we communicate. Obviously, there's much more to it than rules. I love learning new languages and, when I'm living in another country, learning the local language is the most important to do.

Languages also have their idiosyncrasies, I accepted it and learnt to live with it. When I don't understant what gave birth to an expression or to a motto I immediately go and check. That's the most valuabel thing I did while learning the languages I can speak. Sometimes, these idiosyncrasies lead to a clash.

Just like what happened with mint. I think everybody know mint, a family of spicy herbs. As I told you, I love tea. And in summertime, I love drinking Tuareg tea, a Moroccan specialty made with a variety of mint called spearmint and Gunpowder tea. For best results, fresh spearmint leaves are required, so I went out looking for them.

One thing I knew for sure: Spaniards call this specialty Té con hierbabuena. Being a so widely spoken language, it turns out that, despite the order that the Real Academia tries to impose, hierbabuena is a term that identifies different plants depending on the country you are. This fact explained why I was receiving so doubtful answers from whoever I asked about mint and hierbabuena. It seemed like everybody's got his theory! Some Spaniards even thought that hierbabuena was not a kind of mint. Well, but I was pretty sure! Despite the Arabic name of the drink, I sawed and rose spearmint myself.

An evidence that seemed to fail, here in Spain. Fortunately it came out that hierbabuena is spearmint. In Spain, too, where everything (else) is different. I clashed not with an idiosyncrasy of the language this time: I clashed with widespread ignorance.

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