When people visit me in Paris, they’re always surprised to see a wide variety of non-French restaurants—Chinese take-out abounds, as does Thai and Indian food. The same is true here in Guatemala—the restaurants include a Mediterranean place, a Mexican place, a Korean tea house, and some really amazing bakeries. My first meal in Guatemala this time was at a pizza joint that some of my coworkers like. Zipf’s Law affects the vocabulary of pizza as much as the vocabulary of anything else. Here are the words that I had to look up in order to understand the very first, most basic pizza on the list:
- rodaja: a round slice; also a disk or a caster.
- albahaca: basil.
There’s an excellent Guatemalan restaurant in town called Tres Tiempos. I spent an evening there eating tamalitos and a sort of Guatemalan hotdog and looking up the words on the menu. How could repollo possibly not mean “chicken”??
- repollo: cabbage. You probably learned the word col—so did I. Don’t know where this one comes from.
- rebozado: battered.
Incidentally, if you’re into language and you’re into food, you will want to check out Dan Jurafsky’s latest book, The Language Of Food: A Linguist Reads The Menu. Dan received a MacArthur Genius Grant for his fascinating work in natural language processing, and his talk on ketchup at a NAACL meeting is probably most people’s favorite keynote speech ever. If you start out at smile.amazon.com, you can donate part of the purchase price to Surgicorps.