After spending two weeks in the U.S. for Thanksgiving, I’m finally back in Colombia… a little fatter, a little poorer, and a little out of practice Spanish-wise. Such is life. I’m forgoing a Friday Five post because I would be hard pressed to come up with five words I’ve learned recently, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you hanging. What’s on our plate today? Maple syrup.
It doesn’t get any more delectable than real maple syrup, does it? I bought four bottles of it in the U.S. to bring back as gifts for my boyfriend’s family. One sip of that savory amber ambrosia and they’d surely be smitten. But how to translate it? I had all the “right” words already floating around my head– maple, check (arce); syrup, check (jarabe, sirope). Unfortunately, though, I soon learned that using these words here would only lead to blank stares. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that maple syrup is very uncommon here, as are pancakes, and we don’t usually have words at the ready for what’s not a part of our reality. I would never look for recognition when talking about maple syrup (unless the person had lived in the U.S. or Canada at some point); I just wanted to be able to explain what it is. What was a gringa to do?
Arce won’t get you very far because they don’t grow here. Jarabe is usually used for cold and cough syrups and their ilk. Sirope was met with total incomprehension and seems to be a Spanish (as in Spain) thing. Three strikes and it seemed I was out. My boyfriend recommended I just go with miel. Honey it is not, but it seemed like the most natural option. Of course, I explained that it’s actually savia, y que la drenan de los árboles, blah blah blah, and I was finally met with some flickers of understanding. Pero pruébelo, pruébelo ya, ni importa cómo se llame… at the end of the day, there’s no need to split hairs over what to call it. Just get them to try it, and all linguistic handwringing will cease.
By the way, later on at the store, I looked for it out of curiosity and found (an artificial version of) MIEL DE MAPLE. Good enough for me. Case closed.
And while we’re on the subject, I’ll go ahead and tell you that honey is usually referred to as miel de abeja. Bee honey. To, you know, differentiate it from all those other honeys out there. No, seriously–you just learned a new one.
_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with this word? How have you heard maple syrup translated? Have you ever had it served to you in Latin America? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?