I thought I’d share a few more words I was inspired to look up by my recent read: a Mexican-American collection of short stories.
Cuatro Milpas is both the name of a cantina (bar) and the bartender/owner’s favorite song. Apparently a milpa is “a small field in Mexico or Central America that is cleared from the forest, cropped for a few seasons, and abandoned for a fresh clearing.”
anaphora: “a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses.” From the story Dona Porfiria Comes Calling, “Their father was a prolific reader and whenever he spoke to them using anaphora, they knew from past experience that they were doomed.”
Shibboleth: “any distinguishing practice that is indicative of one’s social or regional origin.” In its usage in the story by the same name, the Shibboleth (capitalized in the story, but this does not appear to always be the case) is basically a secret handshake.
menso: “someone who is stupid and/or annoying.” Used in dialog: “Hey! Jou’re not so ‘Mr. high and mighty’ now, eh rich boy? Jou’re daddy’s not aroun’ here, menso!” I like this phonetic expression of accents, a la Twain in Huck Finn and so many more (although I believe Twain was the first).
dècimas: defined in the story itself. Let me just share with you a short passage:
Sebastian remembered the dècimas and their complicated forty lines. A man would challenge another to a verbal duel by nailing a quatrain to the front door or a fence post. The challenged had to answer within a week by producing a complicated forty line poem with four ten line stanzas. Not only that, but the poem had to have a strict octosyllabic beat with an ‘abbaaccdde’ rhyme scheme. Many a man had tried and failed to meet the verbal challenge, but the CÌsneros men were fine ‘dècimeros’ and always relished the competition.
Isn’t that an awfully cool tradition? And so literary! I would be very impressed to observe one of these challenges being met.
merienda: context clues tell me that this is something like a late-afternoon meal of dessert. In my interwebs-searching for a definition, I found a source of information that I especially appreciated. (You may observe that I vary my sources: Wikipedia, About.com, online dictionaries including the urbandictionary.com, or whatever seems most appropriate to my need.) I found a blog that nailed this one, in a surprisingly close-to-home post about eating in the Med Center, where I work. Dr. Ricky defines the term for me:
Although loosely translated to mean snack, merienda cuisine is markedly different from what Americans consider snacks (which appear to me as extended desserts). They aren’t simply sweet items meant to provide a quick spike of blood sugar – merienda foods are proper filling small versions of regular meals, more often savory than sweet.
…and so on, discussing the food he (I think it’s a he? I could be wrong) is accustomed to seeing at meriendas in different countries.
These little cultural learning moments were great fun for me. Have you learned any new words lately?