Saturday, September 1, 2012

Jam, Jelly and Jello....the Stickiness of Language

As we have pretended to be learning French, we have discovered faux amis (false friends), two words that look similar but do not have the same meanings. An example is the English word library in French is la biblioteque, but la librairie is a bookstore. It sets you up for confusion.  What you would not expect is that you would encounter the same difficulty talking to someone in your own native (so-to-speak) language. 

It began with the question "What is the favorite Mormon snack food?"  Doug and I were sitting at the Leran Bar with (who else???) Billy and Sally, and Gareth.  It is important to note that the aforementioned folks are Brits.  This question was an offshoot of a more political discussion about Mitt Romney.  The answer is obvious, especially to anyone who has ever lived in the all-Mormon state of Utah.  JELLO!!!  And not just any Jello.  While some Americans may actually not know about the Jello-Mormon connection, it is safe to say that Brits are even pretty oblivious to Jello. So, it was inevitable that the discussion digressed from there.

At first there was an immediate assumption that Jello is the same as jelly.  "Jello is a dessert" I attempt to inform.  "It is not something you spread on bread."   "Jello is like a jam?" was the Brit reply.  "No, that is jelly" I insist.  "Jello is clear and it shakes" I add.  "It is not preservatives?" the Brit ask.  "Oh, ha, ha, I'm not falling for that."  Yes, preservatives are yet another word for jams, jellies, marmalades, etc., but in French, le mot 'preservatif' does not mean jam or jelly or even JELLO.  Le preservatif translates to "the condom".  Unfortunately, I don't think any Jello-loving Mormon will appreciate that circuitous link.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved your word trip from Morman green JELLO through British jelly to the French preservatif! What a hoot.