misadventures in translation

On my first quiz in translation class a few weeks ago I had to stifle my laughter in the middle of the quiz because of the ridiculous Spanish “words” I was inventing to translate the phrase “four-wheel antilock minivan brakes.”

Today, I didn’t laugh during the quiz but did turn it in with the general sense of unease that comes when you’re nearly certain you royally butchered a key word in the text but you don’t yet know which or how badly.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my version of the short article from today’s quiz, back-translated to English from my painful rendering in Spanish. I chuckled all through lunch.

Please imagine this scene as vividly as possible:

In the results that make obvious that appetite is often a case of “the mental over the material,” a new study says that the memory of a big recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy portion of food – even an incorrect memory – can make you hungrier and cause you to eat more the next time, said the researchers.

The study published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used a naive trick to manipulate the memory of the subject’s lunch: at the bottom of a ferret filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pumpa* that they could use to secretly refill or take out its contents while the subjects ate it.

The researchers wondered if the subjects who were tricked by the said manipulation would then remember the sight of the big 500-mg portion of soup they ate or if they would in some manner remember the smaller 300-mg portion they ate. And they wondered if the appetite of the subjects as the hour of dinner arrived would be lead by the lunch they ate or the more satisfying food they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry the subjects were as the hour to eat dinner arrived, the memories of the food the subjects saw – not the the food they ate – had the most influence. Even when their ferrets of soup were being slowly emptied, the subjects who sat in front of a big ferret of soup were less hungry. And they who were presented with a small ferret of soup said they were more hungry – even if the researchers in back of the stage refilled their ferrets.

*I made up a word for pump. It does not exist in Spanish.

Now, the original article:

In a finding that makes clear that appetite is often a case of mind over matter, new research finds that the memory of a hearty recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy serving of victuals — even an inaccurate memory — can make you hungrier, and prompt heavier eating at the next meal, researchers found.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used an ingenious trick to manipulate research subjects’ memories of a lunchtime meal they had: At the bottom of a soup bowl filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pump, which could be used to surreptitiously refill the  bowl while the subject ate or draw down its contents.

The researchers wondered whether subjects tricked by such a manipulation would later remember the sight of the hefty 500-mg serving of soup they were asked to eat, or whether they would somehow register the punier 300-mg serving they actually ate. And they wondered whether, as dinnertime approached, the subjects’ appetite would be driven by the actual lunch they had eaten or the more satisfying meal they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry they were as dinnertime approached, subjects’ memories of the meal they saw — not the one they ate — seemed to be most influential. Even when their soup bowls were steadily drained, those who were seated in front of a large bowl of soup were less hungry. And those who were presented with a small bowl of soup pronounced themselves more hungry — even if researchers behind the scenes were steadily refilling their bowls.

How I came up with the word turón for bowl, I’ll never be sure. I was aware I didn’t consciously know the word, so when turón popped into my mind, I just went for it. My only guess is that it reminds me of the word tureen in English, which is indeed a bowl. And the word turrón (two Rs make all the difference) is a food and also a word I’ve been seeing a lot recently, since it’s a nut-filled Christmas nougat that appeared in grocery stores last week. I guess I combined the two in my subconscious to come up with the unfortunate turón, which literally means polecat – a ferret. It even has the same accent pattern as the actual word for bowl: tazón. Tazón tazón tazón. Heaven help.


an ode to mustard

I’ve always loved mustard. I put it on everything. I think my love for it rivals my adoration of peanut butter. That’s serious.

But lately I’ve appreciated mustard more than ever. I’m doing a Whole30 – perhaps I’ll explain in further detail in another post – and brown mustard has become my go-to flavoring for everything. It makes life bearable – no, wonderful!

And so, I wrote an ode to mustard. It should be sung – not read! – to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. I’ve conveniently included a link to a karaoke version of that song, which will provide accompaniment to your singing. So, there’s no excuse for not belting it out as your eyes skim along the lines.

To mustard!

An Ode to Mustard (to the tune of “My Favorite Things“)

Dijon on omelets
And yellow on burgers
Honey on mushrooms
And spicy in dressing
Mustard, my condiment,
Fills me with joy.
These are the ways
That I mustard enjoy.

Yellow mustard with french fries
Is better than ketchup.
Mayonnaise and hot sauce
Just cannot catch up.
I wish my yard was
Full of mustard weeds
Then I could jump
In piles of mustard leaves.

All salad dressings
Taste bland without mustard.
Marinades for grilled meats
And sauces for fishes
Must include mustard
To taste just right.
Otherwise I might just
Put up a fight.

When the dish is bland,
When the eggs taste eggy,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
That mustard exists
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Sometimes people try to
Add odd ingredients
To mustard.
Wasabi and horseradish
And dill or some ginger.
These all distract
From mustard’s perfection.
I don’t know why people
Try such concoctions.

In the fridge door
We have our collection
Of mustards.
A row of happy
Yellows; my heart beats gladly.
A different flavor
For each different mood.
What joy it brings me
To see my mustard brood.

For breakfast I flavor
My fried eggs with mustard.
Spicy brown is
The perfect accompaniment.
At lunch I eat sandwiches
Slathered with yellow.
And Dijon goes well with
My black bean salad so mellow.

When the dish is bland,
When the eggs taste eggy,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
That mustard exists
And then I don’t feel so bad!

it gets better

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It gets better; it really does.

At first you feel daunted. Then you lie to yourself and say it’ll be easy. You begin.

You take your first few steps. Hey, it’s not too bad.

You jaunt along, happy with your progress, until you encounter the first challenge to surmount.

You’ve been used to the smooth, level paths of home. Now you have to face mountains.

It seems impossible. You struggle and fight, chiding yourself for not being stronger while excusing yourself for not pressing on.

You think of quitting. Now would be the perfect opportunity to try something new, you say. Forget this. Whose idea was it anyways? I’m not made for this.

The ups and downs kill you. At first.

But after a while, you get stronger. You glare at the undulations, daring them to make you slow down or stop. You slam one foot down and then the other, defying the ache of moving forward and upward.

And it gets better. Running on hills gets better.

So, have faith and persevere, my fellow natives of the coastal plains and pancake-like midlands. All is not lost when you move to some place hilly. Keep running! Walk up those evil slopes at first if you must, but don’t give in. Give it a few months. Yes, months. Before you know it, you’ll be plodding uphill like you were born on an incline.

And just wait til you return to the gloriously, sensibly horizontal roads of home. Oh how you’ll fly!